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Study Casts Doubt on Hot Dogs' Link to Colon Cancer
Date:10/25/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

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
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