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Chemicals in Meat May be Linked to Bladder Cancer

 NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The same chemicals that paint your hot dogs pink and keep botulism out of your bologna could also raise your risk of bladder cancer, suggests a new study.

Based on findings from more than 300,000 people, the researchers point a tentative finger at nitrites and nitrates, compounds added to meat for preservation, color and flavor. But they note that more research is needed to confirm the blame.

Each year, about 70,000 Americans are diagnosed with bladder cancer, and more than 2 percent of the population will eventually develop the disease during their lifetime.

Several risk factors, including smoking and exposure to arsenic, have already been linked with the cancer, senior researcher Dr. Amanda Cross of the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland, told Reuters Health in an email.

"However, other exposures are likely involved," she added. "We investigated whether compounds found in meat, formed either during the meat cooking process -- heterocyclic amines or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons -- or during meat preservation -- nitrates and nitrites -- were associated with bladder cancer."

For the study, Cross and her colleagues used information from a National Institutes of Health-AARP study begun in 1995, which followed 300,933 older men and women from across the United States.

Participants filled out questionnaires on the meat they consumed, as well as how it was prepared and cooked. The researchers then matched this data to laboratory-measured meat components.

During the 7-year study, a total of 854 participants (less than 0.3 percent) were diagnosed with bladder cancer.

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