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Eating processed meat daily could lead to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer

Eating the equivalent of a sausage or two rashers of bacon a day can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, a study claims.

Scientists found that for every 50 grams of processed meat eaten each day there was a 19 percent rise in the risk of cancer compared to those who ate no meat.

People who eat 100 grams a day, the equivalent of two sausages or four rashers, have a 38 per cent increase in risk, while anyone consuming 150 grams a day has a 57 per cent higher risk.

The study of 6,000 people, funded by the Swedish Cancer Foundation and Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, found less conclusive evidence for its findings with men than with women. It is thought that this is because men generally eat more red meat.

"Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates. As well as diagnosing it early, it's important to understand what can increase the risk of this disease," associate professor Susanna Larsson said.

"If diet does affect pancreatic cancer then this could influence public health campaigns to help reduce the number of cases of this disease developing in the first place."

Although the percentage increases seem high, the probability of contracting pancreatic cancer is one in 77 for men and one in 79 for women.

Sarah Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said the "jury is still out" on whether meat is a definite risk factor. Larger studies were needed to confirm the findings, she said.

"We do know that, among lifestyle factors, smoking significantly ramps up the risk of pancreatic cancer [ by 74 per cent]," she added.

"Stopping smoking is the best way to reduce your chance of developing many types of cancer and other diseases as well."

Eleanor Donaldson, spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said the study's results reinforced the need for people to control their processed meat intake.

"This is supportive of the BDA's views on processed meats, while there is a probable link to obesity," she said.

"Generally we find that people that fall into the group with the highest levels of processed meat intake are often people who have the lowest intake of plant based foods and therefore are missing the beneficial substances within them.

"Red meat contains a compound called haem, which gives it the red colour and has been shown to damage the lining of the colon. Meanwhile the act of processing meats often uses chemicals and carcinogens."

She said the adage of "everything in moderation", combined with a healthy lifestyle, is the best route forward.

"Overall health and fitness, especially with regard to body fat is something to maintain. There's never any harm in treating yourself, but taking care to introduce more vegetables, fruit and pulses to your diet is a good step to take."

More than 8,000 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the UK in 2008.