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Processed Meats Elevate Thyroid Cancer Risk

Thyroid Cancer Illustration

The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland located in the front part of the neck that produces the hormones thyroxine and calcitonin. Thyroid cancer is a common endocrine cancer, and it is also the most rapidly increasing cancer diagnosis in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimated that over 50,000 cases of thyroid cancer would be diagnosed in 2017, and more than 2,000 people would die from the disease in the same year.

Over the past decades, an abundance of research has been coming out showing that dietary and lifestyle factors play a significant role in the development of thyroid cancer. The findings of a study published in the International Journal of Cancer showed that high intake of nitrite-containing foods, such as processed meats, doubled a woman's chances of developing thyroid cancer. Processed meats are excellent sources of dietary nitrites, and hence increase thyroid cancer risk. In another study published in the Journal of Nitric Oxide Biology and Chemistry, individuals who consumed high amounts of nitrites from dietary sources were shown to have greater risk of thyroid cancer than persons on diets low in dietary nitrites.

Nitrites are precursors in the formation endogenous N-nitroso compounds. These compounds are potent human carcinogens; they induce mutation of normal cells in the thyroid gland to cancerous cells and promote the conversion of cancerous lesions or mutated cells to invasive tumors. This action of N-nitroso compounds accelerates the development and growth of cancerous cells and tumors in the thyroid gland.

Millions of Americans annually consume large amounts of processed meat products, such as ham, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, corned beef, cured meat, canned meat, and smoked meat. These addictingly delicious but extremely unhealthy foods are high in nitrites. The more processed meats an individual consumes, the higher their exposure to nitrites, thereby increasing their risk of developing thyroid cancer. Avoiding processed meats can substantially decrease an person's chances of developing thyroid cancer.

Additional Information:

(1) Facts About Thyroid Cancer

(2) Is Dietary Nitrate/Nitrite Exposure a Risk Factor for the Development of Thyroid Abnormality?

(3) World Health Organization Says Processed Meats Cause Cancer

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