Diet plays a critical role in almost every aspect of your overall health. From cardiovascular disease to obesity, we truly are what we eat. More recent research has strengthened the link between certain types of food and specific types of cancer.

For almost a decade, studies have repeatedly shown that processed deli meats are likely to increase the risk of bowel and colorectal cancer.

Does Deli Meat Cause Cancer?

Deli meat and all processed meats have been shown to increase cancer risk. Processed meats include all smoked, cured, canned or meats filled with preservatives. Most types of store-bought meats are processed, including:

  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Bologna
  • Chicken
  • Salami
  • Bacon
  • Sausage

Red Meat Can Also Pose a Cancer Risk

Like processed meats, red meats also increase the risk of bowel cancers, colorectal cancers, and potentially other forms of cancer. Red meat includes pork, beef and lamb.

Related: Oxford Study Reinforces Link Between Cancer and Meat Intake

How Does Deli Meat Cause Cancer?

Processed meats impact individuals differently, but the primary link between deli meat and red meat is the chemicals added during processing. Some of the chemical additives in processed meat include:

  • Nitrates – Nitrates and nitrites are both chemicals added to preserve processed meats. These additives are more common in deli meats, which may be one reason why processed meats pose more of a cancer risk than red meats.
  • Heterocyclic amines and polycyclic amines – Also known as HCAs and PCAs, these compounds are formed when meat is cooked at very high temperatures. Grilling, barbecuing or direct exposure to flame increases the risk of HCAs and PCAs in meats. They have both been linked to bowel cancer.
  • Haem – This is a naturally-occurring chemical that can damage cells and has been linked to cancer.

Less Is Less – How Much Red Meat Is Safe?

According to a WHO study, every 50 grams of processed meat consumed daily increases the risk of colorectal and other bowel cancers by 18%.

One of the bright spots of this research is that eating less processed and red meat reduces the chances of a cancer diagnosis. For every 25g of processed meat consumed per day, the risk of cancer increases. 25 grams is approximately one slice of deli meat or two small slices of bacon. Reduce your overall intake by replacing your daily ham sandwich with a healthier option. Start by replacing it one day a week and slowly phase it out completely as you find better alternatives.

Cancer Prevention Starts with You

Reducing your intake of deli meats is one of the most impactful ways to reduce your risk of cancer and keep your family healthy. Making small changes can add up to improve your overall quality of life and lowers healthcare-related expenses. Your diet is worth investing time, energy and planning. Talk to your healthcare provider about more ways to make small healthy changes.

Learn more about how Less Cancer does its work.