Mona Khanna, MD, MPH explains how you can reduce your chances of developing lung cancer.
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New study links red meat to Lung Cancer. Dr. Mona Khanna explains. Dr. Mona Khanna: Big study done at Indiana University that looks at about a half a million people ages 50 to 71 and what they found out is that people who ate a lot of red meat in fact, had a 16 percent higher risk of developing lung cancer and we've known that there might be an association between lung cancer and red meat before but this is the first real study with a big number of people that helps to point us in that direction. How was red meat identified as a risk factor? Dr. Mona Khanna: When we do these big studies called randomized clinical trials, they adjust and what that means is they take into account whether or not people exercise, whether or not they smoke and any other risk factors that could be associated with lung cancer. So they do that in an effort to isolate the red meat's effects on lung cancer and actually the red meat was found to be associated not only with lung cancer but other increased GI cancers as well. What types of meats were included in this study? Dr. Mona Khanna: Well in this study what they did was they looked at beef, they looked at pork and they looked at lamb, and hot dogs also were associated with it, any kind of hot dogs including turkey hot dogs. What we know though for sure is that meat contains certain carcinogens, what that means is they cause -- they have chemical that cause a reaction in our body and that reaction is called the mutation of our DNA. DNA is our building blocks, these are the amino acids that make up people's bodies and so when mutations occur in DNA, that means that there is a chance that they could then flip over and become abnormal and lead to cancer which is an abnormal growth of cells. What should the public take away from this study? Dr. Mona Khanna: This particular study looked at the amount of red meat that was eaten, again beef, pork and lamb and what they saw was they saw a link with people who ate large amounts of red meat. So I would say if the advice that you give really with any kind of lifestyle change in your diet, everything in moderation, probably no more than 2 times a week. In other words, 2 meals a week not a couple of times in those particular days, would be safe but anything more than that might be associated then with the increased risk of some of these cancers. What are the main contributors to lung cancer? Dr. Mona Khanna: We know a lot about lung cancer, we know that the number one way to prevent anyone from developing lung cancer is to quit smoking. Now that doesn't mean that all lung cancers are associated with smoking, there is a very small percentage of people who develop lung cancer who have never smoked. They might have other risk factors though; the other risk factors are environmental exposure such as radon, silicosis and asbestos and workers who deal with some of these substances. Another big risk factor for lung cancer is environmental smoke. In other words, people smoking around you; we call it secondhand smoke, that's been known to help contribute towards the development of lung cancer. So if we reduce those risk factors then that reduces the person's chance of developing lung cancer whether they smoke or not.