Say it isn’t so: hot dogs increase cancer risk?

A new study from the British Journal of Cancer found that processed meats, including hot dogs (which, you could argue isn’t really meat at all) increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. And apparently the more you eat, the greater the risk.

I find this news terribly disappointing. For the most part, I’m a vegetarian. But my one exception (in addition to fish and shrimp) is hot dogs–especially the ones from Costco.

To put this into perspective, the risk increased by nearly 20 percent for every 50 grams of processed meat eaten per day–that’s roughly one hot dog. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that pancreatic cancer is very rare, so a “20 percent increase” might not mean much in absolute terms.

The culprit, actually, isn’t the meat at all–it’s the additives, including nitrites. Nitrites can be converted into cancer. But they aren’t all bad: nitrites increase shelf life and protect against botulism (and if we got rid of botulism, where would all those Hollywood stars get their botox?).

Say it isn’t so: hot dogs increase cancer risk? was last modified: March 23rd, 2012 by Armin


  1. Happily, I think you don’t really need to worry about the cancer risk too much. I just did a blog post on how websites love to sensationalize news like this, where relatively tame suggestions like “moderate your processed meat consumption” translates to “doctors conclude nobody should eat processed meats ever.” It’s bunk!

    In moderation, there should be no problem, but when it comes to hot dogs and foods like them, they tend to be eaten by people who don’t really moderate their diets.

    If you have the discipline to stick to a mostly-vegetarian diet, you’re probably ok :)

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