Speaking exclusively to FoodManufacture.co.uk, author of the research Prof Susanna Larsson, said: “Our meta analysis [review of previous research] showed that eating 50g of processed meat a day increased the risk of pancreatic cancer in both men and women by 9 - 10%."
For men, eating 120gm of red meat a day increased the risk of pancreatic cancer by 29%, said Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stocholm.
The results were “not really what was expected”, said Larsson. “We know that eating meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer, but not so much is known about other cancers, so this research is quite important.”
Larsson suggested that further research should focus on the link between nitrate in processed meat and the risk of pancreatic cancer. “Nitrate in processed meat is associated with the carcinogen n idosno in the stomach. More research is needed to understand this.”
Nitrates and nitrates are used to extend the shelf life of some bacon and processed meat products.
The carcinogen occurs naturally in acorns, she added.
Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates so early diagnosis is very important, said Larsson.
Asked about her personal diet, Larsson said: “I try to eat as little processed meat as possible. Red meat is a little better than processed meat.”
Larsson’s study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, analysed data from 11 trials and 6,643 patients with pancreatic cancer.
Nearly 8,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the UK.
Based on previous research linking red and processed meat to bowel cancer, the government recommended last year that people eat no more than 70g a day.
Cancer Research UK described the risk of developing pancreatic cancer as "comparatively small” - one in 77 for men and one in 79 for women.
The World Cancer Research Fund has advised consumers to avoid all processed meat.
The symptoms of pancreatic cancer include: unexplained weight loss, abdominal pain, jaundice, weight loss and weakness, nausea and loss of appetite, back pain, itching and diabetes.
To find out how this research will impact the food processing and manufacturing industry, watch out for more reports here at FoodManufacture.co.uk.