Bacon can cause cancer

It is not known if bacon causes cancer. As with many foods, it is not possible to say that bacon is absolutely safe. Just as we know, for example, milk or potatoes are potentially harmful under some circumstances or for some sensitive people, then we know that bacon could potentially cause cancer. However, at present, there is no evidence that it does.

Bacon, like other cured (or pickled) meats such as ham, corned beef, frankfurters and salami, contain nitrite. Nitrite, and sometimes nitrate, both of which occur naturally, are used to produce the characteristic colour, flavour and texture of these products and also aid their preservation. The use of nitrite and nitrate can, under some circumstances, result in the formation of substances called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines can cause cancer in laboratory animals and they may have the same potential in humans. However, the nitrosamines in bacon occur in much lower levels than the amounts used in tests with laboratory animals and we do not know how low the probability of getting cancer from exposure to these low levels is.

Studies that have looked at populations that consume large amounts of nitrite or nitrate have not been able to establish conclusively a link between these substances and cancer. The picture is complicated because the potential to form carcinogenic (cancer causing) nitrosamines is altered by other dietary components. For example, vitamin C can prevent the formation of nitrosamines. It seems wise not to consume excessive amounts of foods containing nitrite and nitrate. Often these products also have relatively high levels of salt and fat.