MONDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. government
requirement that vitamin C or one of its close relatives be added
to hot dogs, to reduce the amount of nitrites found in this popular
food, may not have lowered the rate of colon cancer cases after
all, a new study suggests.
Back in 1978, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration mandated
that the meat industry include vitamin C (ascorbate) or its close
cousin, erythorbate, in hot dogs to offset the amount of nitrites.
Nitrites are added to cured, processed meats such as hot dogs to
enhance their flavor and color, and to extend their shelf life. The
problem is that during the cooking process, nitrites combine with
amines in meat to form cancer-causing nitrosamines.
Since vitamin C was added to hot dogs, the researchers found
that there has been a sharp drop in the number of people who die
from colon cancer, but the incidence of colon cancer has not
changed that much.
The findings were presented Monday at the American Association
for Cancer Research annual meeting in Boston.
"The amount of nitrites in hot dogs were reduced as a result of these changes," said lead researcher Dr. Sidney Mirvish, professor emeritus at the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. But, "if it were true that these changes reduced risk for colon cancer, it possibly should have been evident by now," he said. "It's not."
Dr. David Bernstein, chief of the division of gastroenterology
at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., said that
the decrease in death rate from colon cancer was likely due to
earlier detection and improved treatment, not changes in the
nitrite content of hot dogs.
"The hot dog issue is a tough one to study," he said. "Not everyone eats a ton of hot dogs, so it is a difficult risk factor to control for. Nitrites are probably bad and cause all sorts of problems, but colon cancer may not be one of them."
In a related study presented at the same meeting, researchers at
Simmons College in Boston found that women who consumed diets rich
in foods that increase blood levels of C-peptide may be at higher
risk for colorectal cancer. C-peptide is a blood marker of insulin
In the study, women who ate high amounts of red meat, fish and
sugar-sweetened beverages and consumed lower amounts of high-fat
dairy, coffee and whole grains had a 35 percent increased risk for
colorectal cancer, the study showed. Also, those women who were
overweight or sedentary were more vulnerable to the cancer-causing
effects of this diet. The researchers suggest that high levels of
insulin may promote cell growth and multiplication.
While the study found an association between this kind of diet
and colorectal cancer, it did not prove a cause-and-effect.
Because these studies were presented at a medical meeting, the
data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Cancer Society provides a wealth of information on
early detection and treatment of colon
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