Do Smoked Meats Cause Cancer? – Revealing the Facts

Those smoked brisket sandwiches and juicy steaks taste amazing, without a doubt. But, do smoked meats cause cancer? In recent times, there have been growing concerns about the health impacts of smoked meats – particularly the increased risk of various types of cancers.

In this read, we will present the facts surrounding the consumption of smoked meats and their possible effects on health.

What is Smoked Meat?

Smoked foods are those that have been flavored, cooked and preserved by exposing it to smoke that comes from burning a material – usually wood. If you are relatively new to smoked foods, you might have had moments where you’ve wondered ‘can I smoke all types of meat?’

Well, the most common types of smoked meats are fish, bacon and country ham – basically almost anything that falls under the category of red meat will taste good if smoked the right way.

Smoked Food and Possible Health Impacts

Yes, those smoked red meat foods are super tasty, however, you need to keep a check on your consumption or there could be adverse health effects.

The Presence of Carcinogens

In recent years, there have been studies that have linked smoked meats with various types of cancers, mainly due to a heightened awareness about carcinogens. For instance, when meat is smoked over wood, benzopyrenes are released from the wood smoke that are known to be toxic and carcinogenic.

Moreover, the presence of nitrosamines as a by-product for most curing agents, are also known to be carcinogenic. As per NCI (National Cancer Institute), hydrocarbons and amines are formed when meat is smoked over open flame using wood. These substances are linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Smoked Meats VS Stomach Cancer

Bacterial contamination has been linked to overconsumption of smoked meats that lead to stomach (also known as gastric) cancers. E.coli and L.monocytogenes can cause diarrhea and listeriosis respectively.

In a study conducted in Hungary, amongst all other types of cancers, stomach cancer was observed to occur almost twice the amount of the rest of the cancers. That specific district had 47-50% stomach cancer cases, as compared to 29.9% in the rest of the country. In that district, consumption of smoked meats was considerably higher than the average consumption elsewhere in Hungary. 

Dr. Fatima Carneiro, a renowned Anatomic Pathology professor and council member of the International Gastric Cancer Association (IGCA), also talked about gastric carcinomas in one of her research studies. According to her, apart from helicobacter pylori which is considered to be a major risk factor for gastric cancer development, the other prominent risk factor is smoked foods.

Smoked Meats VS Breast Cancer

There have been past studies that have linked smoked or even grilled meats with breast cancer. Additionally, there are new studies that have linked a lower survival rate for someone who has already been diagnosed with breast cancer.

According to the study that involved around 1,500 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 96 and 97, the participants were followed for nearly two decades after their diagnosis. Those who had high consumption of smoked or grilled meats before their cancer diagnosis, had a 23% lower rate of survival as compared to those with lower consumption of the same types of food.

However, it is important to highlight the fact that there is no conclusive cause and effect relationship in this study.

Diabetes and Heart Stroke

Smoked or processed meats have been linked to higher risks of type 2 diabetes or a heart attack, or other heart-related problems. 

High Quantity of Salt

Most smoked meats have a higher volume of sodium due to salt brines and various rubs and cures that involve salt. Even though sodium is a mineral as well as an electrolyte – both necessary for your body. 

However, high levels of salt are very often related to high blood pressure, something that can very quickly lead to a cardiovascular disease.

How to Lower Adverse Health Impacts of Smoked Meat

The first thing you can consider is buying an electric smoker instead of a regular one. It could potentially reduce carcinogens in food and reduce smoke leakage, thanks to its different smoking process. Refer to this shopping guide for the best rated electric smokers on the market.

Switching to an alternative of smoked meat might seem the most easy thing, however, if you are a smoked meat lover, it might become the hardest thing to do. You can use different flavorings or seasonings using non-smoked meats such as chicken, turkey, beef or pork – they might taste good but it might take some time to get used to it.

If quitting on smoked meat seems too far-fetched or impossible, go for options that are low on sodium and made with less or no nitrates at all. Salt and nitrates are usually the main culprits for adverse health effects related to smoked meat consumption, so reducing their quantities will play an important part.

Our Final Word on Smoked Meats VS Risk of Cancer

Taking into consideration all the facts, if you’re still wondering, do smoked meats cause cancer? – well, there is no denying the fact that smoked meats have been linked to an increased risk of different types of cancers.

However, avoiding overconsumption of red meats and keeping your diet in check by having a balanced meal, including all other healthy foods and drinks that you should, then you’re good to go!

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