The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has bad news for lovers of bacon and booze: Eliminating processed meats and alcohol from your diet may help reduce your risk of developing cancer.
The third report from the WCRF’s Continuous Update Project, an ongoing effort to inform consumers about lifestyle habits that may be related to cancer, provides numerous recommendations for people looking to minimize their risk of getting cancer. But two, in particular, are likely to cause a stir for many Americans.
First, the WCRF recommends significantly or totally cutting back on processed meats including bacon, salami, hot dogs and some sausages, as these products have been associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Unprocessed red meats, such as beef, pork and lamb, may also be related to a higher risk of cancer, the WCRF says, but the evidence is not as strong, and these products do provide protein, iron and B vitamins. As such, it recommends eating no more than three weekly portions of unprocessed red meat and “very little, if any, processed meat.”
Alcohol also fell under the organization’s scrutiny, as “there is strong evidence that drinking alcohol is a cause of many cancers,” according to the report. Booze has been linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, stomach and colon, though some evidence has shown it may actually help protect against kidney cancer. Some research also suggests that moderate drinking—typically defined as no more than a drink per day for women, or two per day for men—may lengthen your lifespan and improve heart health. Nonetheless, the WCRF maintains that, “For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.”
The report also advises individuals to maintain a healthy body weight; stay physically active; eat plenty of whole grains, produce and beans, and limit intake of processed foods, fast food and sugary drinks; and avoid high-dose dietary supplements, which do not seem to cut cancer risk and may, in some cases, increase it. The report also recommends that mothers who are able breastfeed their children, which has been shown in some studies to protect against breast cancer.