Even moderate amounts of ham, bacon and red meat are linked to bowel cancer, experts have warned.
People who stick to NHS guidelines on red and processed meat consumption still increase their risk of bowel cancer by a fifth compared with those who eat very small amounts, a study part-funded by Cancer Research UK found.
The Department of Health said that while meat is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, people should cut their intake of red and processed meat to about 70g per day, which is the average daily consumption in the UK.
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said there is strong evidence that eating processed meat (such as salami, bacon, and ham) is a cause of bowel cancer while eating a lot of red meat (such as beef, lamb or pork) also increases the risk.
For the new study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, experts examined data from 475,581 people aged 40 to 69 at the start of the study and followed them for an average of 5.7 years.
During this time, 2,609 people developed bowel cancer.
The study found that people consuming an average of 76g per day of red and processed meat had a 20% higher risk of bowel cancer compared with those who ate 21g per day.
For red meat only, the risk was 15% higher for people who ate 54g per day (about one thick slice of roast beef or one lamb chop) on average compared with those who had 8g per day.
For processed meat only, the risk was 19% higher for those who had an average of 29g per day (about one rasher of bacon or a slice of ham) compared with those who had an average of 5g per day.
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