Hot Dogs Health Risks: May cause Cancer, Leukemia & Diabetes

Are Hot Dogs Bad For You
Credit: Pixabay

In the U.S., a person, on an average, consumes about 50 hot dogs per year. On the Fourth of July, the people in the U.S. consume about 150 million hot dogs! With so many hot dogs consumed on this day alone, one may question at some point about the health risks of hot dogs. So, are hot dogs bad for you? Read on to find out.

Are Hot Dogs Healthy to Eat?

Hot dogs are high in calories. One hot dog with ketchup and mustard contains 290 calories and around 900 milligrams of salt. Most of its calories come from sugars and saturated fats. Hot dogs are processed meat products that hurt your health in various ways.

Low-Quality Meat

A hot dog contains cured meat. The nitrates in hot dog meat convert to nitrites. Nitrites form N-nitroso compounds in the stomach which may cause cancer.

Mariana Stern, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, found that excessive processed meat consumption increases bladder cancer risk.

The meat used for the hot dogs comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where animals are fed low-quality food and kept in crowded, unhygienic conditions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the meat used for making hot dogs include muscle trimmings, head meat, feet, skin, liver, blood, and fatty tissues. The meat is of poor quality. So, are hot dogs bad for you?

After knowing these hot dog health risks, we bet you will never eat them again.

7 Health Risks of Eating Hot Dogs

Here are seven health risks of eating hot dogs.

1. Increases childhood obesity

Hot dogs are detrimental to children’s health. They cause 17% of choking cases among children resulting in 80 deaths every year. Hot dogs along with sodas and other unhealthy foods increase the risk of childhood obesity.

2. May increase the risk of cancer

Can hot dogs give you cancer? According to Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, processed meat causes cancer.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) says that consuming 50 grams of processed meat increases the chance of colorectal cancer by 21%.

Another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology says that people who consume processed meats in larger quantities have a high risk of pancreatic cancer. However, more research is required in this area.

3. May cause type 2 diabetes

A paper published in Metabolism states that processed meat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes more than red meat. The author of the paper, Peter Clifton, says that processed meat increases mortality and the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

4. Causes oxidative damage

Animal and human studies show that consuming red meat increases the production of chemical compounds such as heme and its chemical by-product, N-nitroso.

It causes oxidative damage to intestinal tissues and is carcinogenic. Heating meat leads to the release of cancerous heterocyclic aromatic amines.

5. May lead to weight gain and cardiovascular diseases

Hot dogs contain high amounts of fat. Consuming a diet high in fats leads to weight gain, and may cause other problems like increased cholesterol levels and plaque buildup in the arteries. This may lead to blockages and cardiovascular diseases.

6. May cause childhood leukemia

According to a study published in Cancer Causes & Control, consuming processed meat increases the risk of childhood leukemia. The N-nitroso compounds in processed meat may cause leukemia in children.

7. Harms pregnant women

Cured meat contains listeria monocytogenes that cause flu-like symptoms and gastrointestinal distress.

Small children, pregnant women, elderly adults and those with a weakened immune system are susceptible to listeria. It may lead to premature delivery or miscarriage, or infection in the fetus.

Are Hot Dogs Healthier without Nitrites?

Hot dogs contain nitrites derived from celery juice. It helps prevents botulism and preserves its pink color. Many companies have removed artificial ingredients such as nitrites from processed meat in hot dogs to get people to eat it.

However, a research scientist at Harvard’s School of Public Health, Kana Wu, says that removing artificial ingredients and adding natural ingredients to processed meat doesn’t make it healthy. Processed meat made with natural ingredients is more or less the same as those with artificial ingredients.

Delicious Hot Dog Recipe

Here are two points you need to keep in mind before making a hot dog:

  • Buy hot dogs of a good brand
  • Check the nutrition content (they should be low in sodium and not have more than 150 calories and three grams of fat)

Although hot dogs can never be quite healthy, here’s a delicious hot dog recipe you can try out.

Salsa Hot Dog Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons of diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of thinly sliced fresh jalapeños
  • 2 teaspoons of sliced scallion
  • 1 grilled hot dog
  • 1 whole wheat hot dog bun, toasted if desired


Combine scallion, tomatoes, and jalapenos in a small bowl. Place hot dog in the bun. Top it with the tomato jalapeno mixture.

This hot dog has 191 calories and 11 grams of proteins. It includes 23 grams of carbs and four grams of fiber.

Final Word on Eating Hot Dogs

With the studies mentioned above, you should decide for yourself whether you should eat hot dogs or not. It’s alright if you get a craving to have a hot dog, just make sure you have them in moderation, and maybe only once a month or so.



“Do You Really Want to Eat Hot Dogs After Knowing This?” Mercola, September 1, 2014;

Akpan, N., “Bacon, hot dogs and processed meats cause cancer, WHO says,” PBS Newshour, October 26, 2015;

Peters, J.M., et al., “Processed meats and risk of childhood leukemia (California, USA).,” Cancer Causes & Control, March 1994; 5(2): 195-202,