(NaturalNews) A diet high in cured meats may lead to a 74 percent higher risk of childhood leukemia, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the journal BMC Cancer.
Researchers examined the dietary habits and leukemia rates among 515 Taiwanese children and youths between the ages of 2 and 20. A total of 145 leukemia patients were included in the study, and each was compared with two healthy participants of the same age and sex. The scientists used detailed dietary questionnaires to determine participants' intake of cured meats including bacon, ham, hot dogs, dried salted duck, salted fish and Chinese sausage. For leukemia patients, cured meat intake was calculated for the time period before the onset of the disease; for healthy patients, intake was calculated for the beginning of the study.
The researchers found that the rate of leukemia was 74 percent higher among those who ate cured meat products more than once per week than among those who ate it less frequently. In contrast, children who ate vegetables and soy products frequently had a 50 percent lower leukemia risk than children who ate vegetables and soy products rarely.
The risk of cancer among children who ate large amounts of both cured meats and soy or vegetable products was significantly lower than the rate among those who ate large amounts of cured meats alone.
Based on the results of the study, the researchers have recommended that children limit their intake of cured meats and fish.
Cured meats have previously been linked to an elevated risk of other cancers. One of the primary suspects for this effect are the chemicals known as nitrites that are used in the preservation process.
Leukemia is a term that describes a cluster of different cancers of the blood or bone marrow, characterized by the excessive production of blood cells.