Just about every evening news channel publicized the possibility that nitrates and nitrites, preservatives found in cured meats, have caused an increase in bladder cancer. Unfortunately, they needlessly frightened their viewers by touting a small increase in bladder cancer incidence based on a study that did not even show that the rise in cancer risk was statistically significant. The study, published in Cancer, required 300,000 people to recall which kind of meats they ate for seven years and how those meats were cooked. The researchers found that those who ate the most cured red meat were 30 percent more likely to develop bladder cancer.
This is the epitome of data dredging, ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross fumes. You have over 100 different meat categories to choose from and if you re looking at 100 cancers, the likelihood of finding some alleged link between a food constituent and cancer is practically 100 percent. Lo and behold, they found a slightly increased bladder cancer risk with a large margin of error. There is no statistically significant data here, but it still got published and broadcast in the evening news. This is all pure speculation based on very soft data.
ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan reminds us that this is not the first time nitrates and nitrites have been implicated in cancer causation.
This type of study is like watching sausage being made. It isn t pretty and you don t always know what goes into it, quips ACSH's Jeff Stier.