sausage crackers and cheese laid out on a wooden board

You’ve seen the summer sausage gift sets. They’re wrapped and packaged with holiday cheer, and don’t need to be refrigerated. Sometimes they even come with crackers, cookies, and decorative silverware.

If you’re heading to the mall, grocery store, or big box warehouse during the holiday season, you might stumble upon samples of summer sausage served on a toothpick.

But this year, scratch summer sausage off the gift list. Rethink your plans for sending fancy meats and cheeses to your mom.

Why? Research shows that the risk for certain types of cancer increases by eating processed meats like: (1)

  • Summer sausage
  • Bologna
  • Salami
  • Hot dogs
  • Canned meats

In the study, researchers looked at the link between cancer and processed meats. And the results were less than appetizing.

  • Processed meats may raise the risk for cancer as much as tobacco, asbestos, and diesel fumes.

So how much do a few slices of summer sausage raise your risk for cancer?

It depends. The less you eat, the lower your risk.

But a lot of people eat processed and red meats at least once a day, and sometimes more during the holidays. Here’s what researchers found…

  • Eating just 1.7 ounces of processed meat a day raises the risk for colon cancer by 18 percent.
  • Red meat wasn’t much better. Just 3.5 ounces each day raises the risk for colon cancer by 17 percent.
  • Here’s a little more food for thought. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. (2)  And colorectal cancer is among the top five most common forms of cancer.

Avoid processed meats: Choose healthier options

If you want to lower your risk for cancer, avoid or limit processed and red meats.

If you’re not ready to give up eating meat, replace red and processed meats with lean meats, fish, and skinless poultry.


  1. Bouvard, V., et al. (2015). Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. The Lancet, 16(16): 1599-1600. From:
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023) Leading causes of death. From:

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