Processed Meat Linked to Cancer Deaths - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 24, 2013

Processed Meat Linked to Cancer Deaths 

Cold cuts – they’re a lunch staple. But are they good for you? There’s been a lot of debate over the health risks of both processed and red meats, causing confusion over what is and isn’t healthy, but we now have a clearer answer – and that answer is No. A recent European study has found that a high consumption of processed meat doubles your risk of death caused by cancer and other diseases. 

But as frightening as that sounds, there is a silver lining: Reducing or eliminating the consumption of processed meat can prevent around three percent of premature deaths. 

Over the course of about 12 years, doctors studied the diets of half a million people. Compared to participants who ate a small amount of processed meat (10-20 g/day), those who ate the highest amount of processed meat (over 160 g/day) had a 43 percent higher risk of dying from cancer and a 70 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. So maybe that third bologna sandwich isn’t a good idea. 

Red meat, however, seemed to pass the health-risk test in this particular study, although many others have found a significant connection between high red meat consumption and increased risk for other types of diseases. 

When meat is altered from its natural state and preserved by smoking, salting, curing, or adding preservatives, the health risks spike. This is partially due to the fact that processed meats are often made with unhealthy amounts of trans fats, saturated fats, and tons of salt and sugar. 

Does this mean that you should abandon processed meats from your diet entirely? Not exactly. If you want to, go right ahead. But if you can’t live without a turkey sandwich or bacon every now and then, all you need to do it limit how much of it you eat.


Here are some tips for balancing your processed meat consumption: 

  • Know your processed meats, which includes hot dogs, sausage, ham, bacon, and deli meats, such as bologna.
  • Stick to small portions of processed meats. The recommended consumption limit is 20 grams a day.
  • Switch up your meals each day. Instead of having processed meat every day, include poultry, fish, and vegetable dishes into your diet. 

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System Cancer Services, visit You can also call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) to request an appointment with a physician who cares for cancer patients.

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