Consuming processed meats may be linked to an increased risk of developing bladder cancer, according to a study published in Cancer (2010 Aug 2. [Epub ahead of print]).

The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, led by Amanda Cross, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, assessed the relationship between intake of meat-related compounds and the risk of developing bladder cancer using data obtained through questionnaires on approximately 300,000 men and women aged 50 to 71 years. The questionnaires assessed the types of meat consumed as well as how meat was prepared and cooked to estimate the intake of these meat-related compounds. Participants were followed for up to 8 years, during which time 854 people received the diagnosis of bladder cancer.

Researcher found that people whose diets had the highest amount of total dietary nitrite, as well as those whose diets had the highest amount of total nitrate plus nitrate from processed meats, had a 28% to 29% increased risk of developing bladder cancer compared with those who consumed the lowest amount of these compounds.

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“Our findings highlight the importance of studying meat-related compounds to better understand the association between meat and cancer risk,” said Dr. Cross. “Comprehensive epidemiologic data on meat-related exposures and bladder cancer are lacking; our findings should be followed up in other prospective studies,” she concluded.