MIAMI -- Nothing goes with baseball like a hot dog — and that’s a frightening thing. At least it is to a group called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which has erected an over-the-top billboard west of Marlins Park that says, in effect: Frankly, you oughta be eating something healthier.
The ad’s message: “Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer — Processed meats increase colorectal cancer risk.”
The art is a cartoonish drawing of a bare-butted hospital patient holding a wiener in a bun.
Laugh all you want, says Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the group of the anti-meat organization that paid for the billboard located on Red Road just west of the stadium. As long as it draws your attention to what he calls a deadly serious problem.
Barnard’s organization, made up of healthcare professionals “dedicated to creating a better future for animals and people,” believes hot dogs are lethal. No joke.
As proof, the group cites published medical research that links consumption of processed foods and instances of colorectal cancer — the third-most common cancer in the United States. PCRM claims that eating a hot dog a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 21 percent. Not that a lot of people eat a hot dog a day.
“The amount of [hot dogs] you should eat is zero,” said Barnard, whose group paid for an identical billboard that went up in on a busy Chicago street last month. “Who buys a hot dog? A guy who takes his 8-year-old son to the game. But not one of them would hand their kid a cigarette.”
Yet the American Meat Institute — the trade organization representing meat packers and processors — fired back at what it calls a “pseudo-medical animal rights group.” The beef lobby claims the ad campaign is part of PCRM’s broader mission: establishing a vegan society.
Hot dogs are a part of a healthy, balanced diet, the group argues. Furthermore, AMI points to contradicting research that it claims showed no relationship between red meat and colon cancer.
The truth? It falls somewhere in the middle, said Dr. Floriano Marchetti, a colorectal surgeon at UM Sylvester Cancer Center.
Processed foods include nitrates and nitrites that have been shown to “start the process” of colorectal cancer, Marchetti said, but those preservatives are just one of several variables.
“I think [the sign] is overboard. We know that processed meat is one of the culprits of colon cancer, but it’s not the only one,” Marchetti said. “An occasional hot dog is not going to kill you.”
The American Cancer Society estimates more than 140,000 Americans will be diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer in 2012. More than 50,000 Americans are expected to die from colorectal cancer this year, although the mortality rate is falling, thanks to preventative screening and polyp removals.
Along with springing for the billboard, PCRM has asked Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to post warning signs around the stadium, listing the risks associated with eating processed meat. The Marlins declined to comment for this story.