Do Hot Dogs Cause Colon Cancer?

If You Are Concerned About Cancer, Think Twice About Hot Dogs

hot dogs on grill
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Eating hot dogs regularly could increase your risk of colon cancer. That's probably unwelcome news (Americans consume about 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day.). Find out how the link between colon cancer and hot dogs and you can reduce your risk.

Hot Dogs and Colon Cancer

Dozens of studies exploring the link between eating meat and colon cancer risk have had conflicting results. Some suggest eating meat causes colon cancer, others do not.

But when the research has narrowed in on the type of meat -- specifically, processed, smoked, cured, and salted meats --  there's been a clearer answer.

Regularly eating hot dogs (and other processed, smoked, cured, salted meats) significantly increases the risk of colon cancer, as well as other types of cancer. Joining the ranks of hot dogs in this category are other sausages, salami, bacon, lunch meat and jerky.

Hot Dogs: How Much is too Much?

When it comes to increased colon cancer risk, it's tough to know exactly how many hot dogs are too many. As a guide, health experts who study this topic have found that eating more than one and a half ounces of processed meat per day, which includes hot dogs, significantly increases the risk of death due to any cause, including deaths due to colon cancer, other cancers, and heart disease.

Typical hot dogs (not "foot-longs") are about 2 ounces. So, a hot dog a day would be too much.

And if you're eating other kinds of processed meats, then you'd have to factor that into your total intake.

Hot Dogs in Moderation

If you're interested in reducing your risk of colon and other cancers, not to mention heart disease, a few simple changes will do the trick. You don't have to shun all animal foods.

Simply cutting back on the amount of meat you eat, including hot dogs, will markedly improve your health. An added benefit? You'll improve the health of the planet too!

Here are some ways to eat less meat (and to eat more healthy plant-based foods):

  • Meatless Monday: One night a week, try to make a completely vegetarian meal. Use this as an excuse to stretch your culinary skills and try new and different foods and recipes.
  • Substitution Solution: From time-to-time, substitute plant proteins, such as beans, for meat. Try bean soups; burritos, enchiladas, and tacos; chili; pasta dishes; and casseroles. Veggie dogs and brats are a good option too. If you have bad memories of these foods, know that these products have improved dramatically in taste and texture in recent years. Try them and you may surprise yourself with how much you enjoy them.
  • Go Ethnic: Experiment with ethnic foods that are naturally vegetarian, such as Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Mexican dishes. Ethnic cuisines also incorporate new and different foods that may be unfamiliar to you, but that you may love if you give them a try.
  • Protein Power: Many people are convinced that without meat they will come up short on protein, but this simply isn't true. In the United States, nearly everyone gets far more protein than they need. Forgoing meat for one meal or a day will not put you at risk for protein deficiency.
  • Moderation Magic: If you love hot dogs, there's no reason to fret. Any type of meat can be part of a healthy diet, so long as you base the rest of your diet around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans. If you can't part with hot dogs, keep it to once or twice per week at most. You also can enjoy good-quality, non-processed lean meat, as well as fish and chicken. Keep in mind that a serving size is 3 ounces.

Sources

Larsson SC, Wolk A. "Meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective studies." International Journal of Cancer 2006 119:2657-2664.

Sinha R, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, Leitzmann MF, Schatzkin A. "Meat Intake and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Over Half a Million People." Archives of Internal Medicine 2009 169:562-571.

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