Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vilifying hot dogs

There is a new commercial coming out about hot dogs and the risk of colon cancer. Actually, the ad is for improving nutrition in schools and removing processed meats, but it is looked at that the hot dog is the culprit. The ad opens with images of hot dogs in a cafeteria. Then, you see a young boy, saying "I thought I'd live forever. I was dumbfounded when the doctor told me I had late stage colon cancer." Then there are two other children talking about cancer and how it has effected them and their families. By the way, none of these children have cancer in real life. The ad ends with a voice saying how "even small amounts of processed meats can lead to adult cancers."

According to this AP article, there is some debate about the commercial. The Hot Dog Council feels like the sponsor--Cancerproject is just using a scare tactic. Cancerproject feels like it is raising awareness about an important issue, stating that there have been a number of studies linking the role of precessed meats to the risk of colon cancer.

What do you think about this ad? Is it merely a scare tactic or does it provide useful information? Is it right to use the children in this ad?


The Cancerproject group is correct that there have been a number of studies showing a link between colon cancer and intake of processed meats. However, the positive correlation is only in with a high consumption of processed meats. A few studies can be read here, here, and here.

I think the problem with this ad is that it gives the impression that eating one hot dog is going to give you colon cancer. In reality, someone would have to be eating at least one hot dog everyday for several years to increase the risk of colon cancer to 5-7%. Truly, that's a lot of hot dogs. Personally, I do not eat hot dogs and have not done so for a long time even before ED began. However, as a young child, I did eat hot dogs. Heck, I even loved hot dogs and ate them right out of the package!! I can't even believe I did that now, but I doubt that that is really going to give me colon cancer.

While it is true that shaping good eating habits early on is helpful for children in making better choices nutritionally, it does not mean that hot dogs and other foods need to be vilified. As always, everything needs to be in moderation.

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