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PHILADELPHIA (CBS/CNN) — Eating processed meats like bacon, sausages and ham could increase the risk of breast cancer, a study has said. Regularly consuming such foods was linked with a 9% higher risk of breast cancer, according to an analysis of previous studies looking at over 1.2 million women.

Angela Thomas was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. The 34-year old woman is now cancer-free and says she’s made major lifestyle changes in the pursuit of maintaining her health.

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“After my diagnosis, it was more of a priority to incorporate more greens with every meal. I started to cut out all processed meat,” says Thomas.

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In 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meat as a carcinogen because studies show that consumption of it can increase the risk for colorectal and potentially stomach cancers.

“Researchers have been looking at it for a long time now,” explains Dr. Margot Savoy, the chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine.

Processed meats are those that have been preserved by smoking, curing or salting.

“The idea is they think the  nitrates we use to preserve the meat may be causing a problem,” explains Dr. Savoy.

She says there’s been mounting evidence about a potential link between meat and cancer.

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“Cutting down processed meat seems beneficial for the prevention of breast cancer,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Maryam Farvid, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

But scientists did not suggest people cut processed meats from their diets entirely, and experts warned that the study should be met with caution.

The study’s authors accepted that the previous studies into the connection between processed meat and breast cancer had produced “inconsistent” results.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women worldwide, according to the World Cancer Research Fund, while Cancer Research UK estimates that around a quarter of cases are preventable.

Gunter Kuhnle, associate professor in nutrition and health at the University of Reading, said that “while the evidence for classifying processed meat as a carcinogen is strong, the actual risk to the individual is very small and it is more relevant on a population level.”

“Whether this [study] justifies a change in the current [UK] recommendation of 70 grams of red and processed meat is questionable,” he added.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)

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