Let’s talk about processed meat… and cancer prevention

29 Jun 2020

Let’s talk about processed meat… and cancer prevention

Let’s be clear - smoking is more likely to result in cancer than eating processed meat such as frankfurts, bacon, salami and ham, however there is strong evidence that both cause cancer in humans. Processing enhances flavour and preservation through the addition of preservatives (salt, nitrite or smoke) and/or other additives (phosphate, glutamate or ascorbic acid).

Here’s what we know:

  1. Long term consumption of 50g of processed meat daily has been shown to increase the risk of bowel cancer by 18%. That’s about 2 slices of bacon, for example.
  2. Fresh sausages in Australia are not permitted to have added nitrates (known to increase bowel cancer risk) so are not in the ‘processed meat’ category. Charring them however may increase risk of cancer and the salt and fat content of sausages suggest they are not a healthy alternative.
  3. About 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat.   


  • To minimise your risk of cancer you should cut out processed meat altogether or keep them to an absolute minimum.
  • Processed meats include bacon, ham, devon, frankfurts, chorizo, salami, cabanossi and kransky.
  • The Australian Dietary Guidelines also recommend limiting consumption of foods high in saturated fat, including pies, processed meats and commercial burgers, among other foods.

 Read more about Can Too’s investment in bowel cancer research.