Tag Archives: The Metro

Processed meat and cancer awareness

Processed meat and cancer
Processed meat and cancer

We issued a press release yesterday highlighting the lack of awareness about the link between processed meat and cancer.

It has been covered by a number of newspapers, including The Metro and The Scotsman.

The press release focused on the fact that just 32 per cent of younger people are aware of the link between processed meat and cancer, according to a survey by YouGov.

But it’s worth pointing out that awareness about the link between processed meat and cancer is too low for people of all ages. Even for the group with the highest awareness, 45 to 54-year-olds, the figure is still only 41 per cent. This means that for every 10 people this age, about six of them are not aware that eating processed meat increases risk of cancer.

This is despite the fact that the evidence on processed meat and cancer is very strong. In fact, the Expert Panel that made the Recommendations in our 2007 cancer prevention Report concluded that there is convincing evidence that processed meat increases risk of bowel cancer.

This is why WCRF UK recommends that people avoid eating it. And when we talk about processed meat, we mean meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives. This includes bacon, ham, and some sausages and burgers.

Over the last three years, we have had lots of media coverage for our message on processed meat and cancer. We have had, for example, articles in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun to name but a few.

Despite all this coverage, this latest survey shows that we still have a lot of work to do to get across the message about the link between processed meat and cancer.

Unless people are aware of what the scientific research has found, then they are not in a position to make their own informed choices about how much processed meat to include in their diet.

If you want to find out more information about the links between processed meat and cancer, you can download our publication Red and Processed Meat: Finding the Balance for Cancer Prevention.

Obesity and breast cancer media coverage

Newspapers: reporting cancer risk
Newspapers and cancer risk

You might have seen an article in the Metro today about a new study suggesting that overweight girls may be at lower risk of developing breast cancer later in life.

The cancer prevention Policy Report World Cancer Research Fund published last year made recommendations for the media and, to be fair, this article has at least put this study into context.

After all, it does get across the point that, looking at all the research, there is convincing evidence that being overweight increases risk of six types of cancer. And one of these types of cancer is breast cancer.

I am still concerned, though, about the potential cumulative effect of headlines of the “Fat girls are ‘less likely’ to get cancer” variety.

Think about how you read a newspaper. Often you will just read the first few paragraphs before moving onto the next story. And if that is the case, context is not going to be much help if it is all in the second half of the article.

With this in mind, it’s possible that someone just scanning the paper would have come away with the impression that scientists are saying that being overweight can actually help reduce cancer risk, even though there is now very strong evidence that the opposite is the case.

This has an effect.

The advice on how to reduce risk of cancer has not changed much in the last 10 years. But last year WCRF commissioned a YouGov survey that found over half of people thought scientists were always changing their minds about cancer risk.

This perception is perhaps not surprising considering all the apparently contradictory stories in the press. We read, for example, that being overweight both does and does not increase risk of cancer.  Or that drinking wine is both good and bad for our cancer risk.

I’m not saying that any of these articles are inaccurate, but looking at the situation overall, there is concern that media coverage of cancer isn’t doing a good job of raising awareness of how people can reduce their cancer risk.

The problem, I think, is not so much that people immediately believe everything they read in newspapers. The real issue is that people end up not trusting any of it .

And that means that sometimes the good advice – to eat a plant-based diet, to be physically active and to maintain a healthy weight – can be ignored along with the bad.