Reducing salt 'would cut cancer'

Salt on bread Salt is in many foods, such as bread.

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Cutting back on salty foods such as bacon, bread and breakfast cereals may reduce people's risk of developing stomach cancer, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

It wants people to eat less salt and for the content of food to be labelled more clearly.

In the UK, the WCRF said one-in-seven stomach cancers would be prevented if people kept to daily guidelines.

Cancer Research UK said this figure could be even higher.

Too much salt is bad for blood pressure and can lead to heart disease and stroke, but it can also cause cancer.

The recommended daily limit is 6g, about a level teaspoonful, but the World Cancer Research Fund said people were eating 8.6g a day.


There are around 6,000 cases of stomach cancer every year in the UK. The WCRF estimated that 14% of cases, around 800, could be avoided if everyone stuck to their 6g a day.

Kate Mendoza, head of health information at WCRF, said: "Stomach cancer is difficult to treat successfully because most cases are not caught until the disease is well-established.

Katharine Jenner from Consensus Action on Salt and Health, says eating less than six grammes of salt could prevent stroke and cancer deaths

"This places even greater emphasis on making lifestyle choices to prevent the disease occurring in the first place - such as cutting down on salt intake and eating more fruit and vegetables."

Eating too much salt is not all about sprinkling it over fish and chips or Sunday lunch, the vast majority is already inside food.

It is why the WCRF has called for a "traffic-light" system for food labelling - red for high, amber for medium and green for low.

However, this has proved controversial with many food manufacturers and supermarkets preferring other ways of labelling food.

Lucy Boyd, from Cancer Research UK, said: "This research confirms what a recently published report from Cancer Research UK has shown - too much salt also contributes considerably to the number of people getting stomach cancer in the UK.

"On average people in Britain eat too much salt and intake is highest in men.

"Improved labelling - such as traffic light labelling - could be a useful step to help consumers cut down."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We already know too much salt can lead to conditions such as heart disease and stroke. That is why we are taking action through the 'Responsibility Deal' to help reduce the salt in people's diets. And we are looking at clearer... labelling on foods as part of our consultation on front-of-pack labelling.

"We keep these findings under review alongside other emerging research in the field."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    "There are around 6,000 cases of stomach cancer every year in the UK. The WCRF estimated that 14% of cases, around 800, could be avoided if everyone stuck to their 6g a day."

    How did they estimate 14%? BBC - without this detail this report is useless! I'll ignore it, like I do all the other psuedo-scientific drivel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    A 'salt' used to treat cancer:

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    penguin337 said:
    "CASH was set up in 1996 as a response to the refusal of the Chief Medical Officer to endorse the COMA recommendations to reduce salt intake"
    Ah, I see. Chief Medical Officer in 1996 was Prof Sir Kenneth Calman KCB DL FRCP FRCS FRSE; since been Chair of the National Cancer Research Institute. And this political pressure group decided he didn't know what he was talking about. OK

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    I've just had some nice healthy fish for my lunch, cooked in full fat butter of course.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Not many people aware of the carcinogenic salt called Sodium Nitrite that appears in lots of foods including nearly all processed meats like sausages and bacon. It is used to keep the meat looking fresh. The world cancer research fund have recently declared that all processed meats are unfit for human consumption. People have tried banning it since the 70s, but meat industry has too much influence

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Moving to an almost zero salt diet (which is probably impossible), lowers blood pressure by just a few percent.

    I wonder how much actual effect lowering salt has on cancer?

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Have you noticed that everytime a topic is printed that talks about this food or that food being bad for you, another comes up to replace it, if the scientists, nutritionists etc., carry on as they are doing, we will be eating raw veg and roots, seems they want us to eat what they think is healthy. Has anyone asked them what they eat before they condemn us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    See Related story number 1 - Salt raises 'stomach cancer risk' - dated 2004.

    How many people will feel that their charitable donations to Cancer Research have been totally wasted researching something that's already been researched?

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Everyone should be aware of what they put into their bodies. We know the risks of drinking too much alcohol, eating too much fat, sugar and salt but on the whole we ignore the warnings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    We complain that manufacturers don't put labels on packaging but honestly, deep down, we know if something is good for us or bad for us. If individuals are really concerned, they should take responsibility for themselves and their families and leave the ignorant to their own fate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    "So... the BBC is reporting that doctors risk giving people cancer when they treat their patients with an intravenous saline solution (salt)? Are all doctors aware of this 'fact' auntie?"

    Intravenous saline doesn't go in your stomach - which is what the reports are concerned with.

    "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." (Solomon)

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Can I get funding to start a study that shows that getting out of bed in the morning is dangerous to health. Oh dear, is it any wonder half the UK population is on Prozac. Every morning I thank God I've emigrated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    @176. A_from_Oxford

    Actually a large amount of CRUK's funding comes directly from Central government and is intended/used to lobby the government to do what government already wanted to do, ie in this case nag everyone to cut down their salt intake.

    So when will salt be sold in plain packaging? Or under the counter? After the alcohol or before?

    Slippery slope anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    Consensus Action on Salt and Health

    Has the abbreviation got anything to do with the aim of the report?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I have said for many years that food labelling is at best useless at worst positively detrimental to health. Governments run away scared from the giant food producers and big supermarkets. hard hitting legislation is needed for labelling even if it makes certain businesses angry and throw their toys out of the pram. It is so difficult to make informed judgements when buying food. Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Bacon on the top of the list. We know why, don't we all. Well, I want my kids to have bacon and pork with their school meals. They can cut out crisps and other heavily salted food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    So, to be absolutely clear, all those artificial sweeteners, fillers, colours and preservatives chucked into processed glop to make it look something like x, taste something like x, and make it safe to eat up to its 'use by' date, are all beneficial.

    But add some salt (call it Sodium to hide it) and we are all at risk of painful death.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    I knew a man once who never ate salt or red meat, took daily vitamins supplements, exercised and never sunbathed. Guess what? He crossed a road and was hit and killed by a bus. Still, the Undertaker said he was the best looking corpse he had ever laid out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    "What I can't understand is...... Blood, tears, sweat, amniotic fluid are all salty, we evolved from the sea. So why is salt bad for us?"

    It isn't, except in excess. Salt is a necessity of life but it is present in low levels in natural foods. The problem arises when salt in available in abundance or 'hidden' in large quantities in processed food. This leads to overconsumption, which is unhealthy

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    What is the proposed mechanism of action of high salt that increases the risk of cancer? Maybe I missed it but I don't recall it being stated anywhere.
    We understand the mechanism of action of many carcinogenic chemicals, both in the environment and in our diet, but I don't recall any explanation of how sodium chloride in excess might be harmful, in terms of cancer.


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