Cancer Treatment Centers of America

The link between sodium nitrites and cancer

blog sodium nitrite and cancer

A study by the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and the University of Southern California suggests a link between eating processed meats and cancer risk. The study followed 190,000 people, ages 45-75, for seven years and found that people who ate the most processed meats had a 67% higher risk of pancreatic cancer than those who ate the least amount.

Processed meats are manufactured using sodium nitrite. During the process of cooking certain meats, sodium nitrites combine with naturally present amines in the meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. When ingested, these compounds are associated with cancer, according to the study.

What meats are considered processed? Some you may not have considered. It includes any meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. Meats such as:

  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Pastrami
  • Salami
  • Hot dogs
  • Sausages
  • Some red meats

Although there is a correlation, the FDA has not ruled processed meats as too dangerous to consume. What can be agreed upon is it is best to limit consumption. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends eating no more than about 16 ounces of cooked red and/or processed meat per week. For reference, about 3 ounces of cooked meat is roughly the size of a deck of cards.

Here are simple ways to reduce red meat and processed meat consumption:

  • To keep protein levels up, incorporate fish and poultry into your weekly diet.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain cancer-protective properties.
  • Remember to eat plenty of protein-rich dairy such as eggs and cheese.

Get nutrition tips for cancer patients.