Is Eating Smoked Fish a Cancer Risk?

An ongoing debate over the potential health risks of smoked and cured fish

Lox: it's delicious, but is it also hazardous to your health?
Foodista/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / July 27, 2019 11:45 am

Whether eaten on its own or atop a bagel, there’s something eminently satisfying about smoked salmon. The way that different tastes converge there is one aspect of its appeal. It’s also something that you can prepare at home with a little advance work, adding a sense of satisfaction to the act of dining.

In recent years, health organizations have raised alarms over links between processed meats and cancer. Might smoked cured fish be the cause of a similar threat to the health of those who consume them? 

In the latest installment of the “Ask Well” column at The New York Times, Sophie Egan — The Culinary Institute of America’s director of health and sustainability leadership initiatives — explored this very question. Her answer suggests an issue that the medical establishment is still debating. 

From a cancer risk perspective, the American Institute for Cancer Research considers smoked and cured fish in the same category as processed meats. Though other cancer research groups are less clear on whether eating smoked and cured fish carries the same risks as eating processed meats.

The question opens up a number of possible avenues for discussion: which research studies covered smoked fish in the same category as, say, factory-processed red meat, as opposed to the ones that treated it as its own entity? Does the use of salt in smoked fish increase the risk of cancer? And are the overall benefits of eating fish counterbalanced by this method of preparation?

Egan notes the importance of moderation here: smoked and cured fish aren’t necessarily something that most people are eating seven days a week, which may limit the potential risk that they convey. But there’s plenty to ponder in her exploration of smoked fish, whether lox is something you enjoy regularly or something you treat yourself to every now and then.

Editor’s Note: RealClearLife, a news and lifestyle publisher, is now a part of InsideHook. Together, we’ll be covering current events, pop culture, sports, travel, health and the world. Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.

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