Processed meat and breast cancer

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Angela Thomas was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. The 34-year-old woman is now cancer-free and she says she has made major lifestyle changes.

“After my diagnosis, it was more of a priority to incorporate more greens with every meal. I started to cut out all processed meat,” said Thomas.

New research in the international journal of cancer looks at 15 previous studies and finds eating processed meats is associated with a nearly 10 percent higher breast cancer risk.

“When we look at all the evidence together, there is an increased risk of breast cancer with diets high in processed meats,” said Dr. Mariana Stern with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Processed meats like bacon, ham, sausage and deli meats including turkey are altered to improve flavor and preservation. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meat as a carcinogen because studies show it can increase risk for colorectal and potentially stomach cancers.  Dr. Stern says avoiding processed meats is key and red meat should be limited to about 18 ounces per week.

“Limit the consumption of alcohol as well,” said Dr. Stern. “And increase your fruits and vegetables.”

Angela grew up in Louisiana eating a meat-heavy diet. She’s now trying to convince friends and family to make changes. And she’s hoping those changes will keep her cancer from coming back.

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