Bodybuilders will try just about anything to gain new muscle mass, and that means we’re always looking for new sources of protein. One of the protein foods that many turn to is lunch meat — turkey, ham, roast beef — because they’re convenient and cheap. But is it possible that this type of processed meat could cause lung cancer?

While we have been hearing about the dangers of high-fat diets and processed foods for years when it comes to heart disease and colon cancer, few have considered the effects these types of foods might have on other areas of health.

Recent research, though, at leasts suggests that we should be on the lookout for other problems.

What Science Says

In particular, Chinese scientists undertook a literature review in 2014 that looked at 34 previous studies — six cohort studies and 28 case-control studies. After running through the available data, the reviewers concluded that both red meat and processed meat consumption represent a statistically significant risk in developing lung cancer.

In an earlier study (1992), researchers from the University of Hawaii  found that high-fat foods in general, and processed meats in particular, increased the incidence of lung cancer. This research was based on a two-year examination of the interplay between dietary practices, blood cholesterol levels, and the development of lung cancer among about 1200 subjects, both cancer patients and control (non-cancer) subjects.

It should be noted that both of these studies were based on epidemiological data, which means that much of the information about dietary practices was self-reported by the subjects themselves. These types of studies are naturally prone to misinformation because people tend to forget, exaggerate, or downright lie about what they’re doing when it comes to their health.

In general, epidemiological studies can be useful in pointing out areas where further research is warranted, but they often come up short in “proving” cause-effect relationships.

What Does It All Mean?

So when you put all of this together, does it  mean that processed meat causes lung cancer?

While there is some evidence to suggest a possible relationship between the two, there is no direct proof one way or the other at this point, and it seems premature to avoid processed meat simply out of fear of developing lung cancer.

On the other hand, you can certainly find more healthful protein sources, and the chemicals used to prepare  lunch meats and other such meats can’t be considered good for you.

In the end, you probably don’t need to fear developing lung cancer from eating processed meat, but you should avoid it if you want to be as healthy and as strong as possible in the long term.

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