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Strike out cancer! Go vegan!

By Heather Moore

April is Cancer Control Month.

It’s also the official start of baseball season.

Every year, Major League Baseball (MLB) partners with a national cancer charity to show support for those who have been touched by cancer. Each season, during the All-Star Game and the World Series, MLB invites players, coaches, umpires and fans to “stand up to cancer” by holding up signs bearing the names of loved ones who are battling the disease.

I always get choked up during these events, especially since my mother and a close friend are breast cancer survivors. But then I remember that many of the foods sold in baseball stadiums — like hot dogs and hamburgers — can cause cancer, and the initiative suddenly seems incongruous.

Selling meat at stadiums where people are encouraged to take a stand against cancer makes about as much sense as serving booze at a benefit for MADD or taking doughnuts to a Weight Watchers meeting.

While it’s fun to see players swinging pink bats to raise awareness about breast cancer or wearing blue wristbands to call attention to prostate cancer (the second most common cancer among men), it would be far more effective for MLB to warn fans about the connection between cancer and meat — or better yet, for all MLB stadiums to stop selling carcinogenic foods.

In April 2015, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council sent out a news release estimating that baseball fans would eat more than 18.5 million hot dogs and nearly 4.2 million sausages — enough processed animal flesh to stretch from Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia to Chase Field in Phoenix — during the 2015 Major League season. But six months later, the World Health Organization made headlines when it published a report announcing findings that processed meats cause cancer and that red meat is probably carcinogenic, too.

Then in March, a study published in Cancer Causes & Control found that Latinas who eat a serving of processed meat per day about the size of a strip of bacon have a 42 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who don’t. Another recent study, this one by Loma Linda University Health, shows that vegan men are a third less likely than nonvegan men to develop prostate cancer.

And according to a recent Oxford University study, if everyone stopped eating animal-based foods, this could save 8.1 million human lives a year — not to mention billions of animals. The study’s researchers believe that if we all went vegan, the combined numbers of deaths per year from cancer, heart disease, strokes and diabetes would decrease by 19 percent.

I’m hoping fans will eat considerably less meat this season, and that stadiums will offer more vegan options. I’m seeing promising signs so far. This March, Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota — the springtime home of my beloved Baltimore Orioles — began offering veggie dogs in addition to veggie burgers, which have been available for several years now. And this season, there will be a vegan food cart at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, which will feature vegan nachos, vegan jerky, vegan spinach wraps and other vegan options. Almost makes me want to root for the Rangers!

Many other major league stadiums, including Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park; Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles; Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.; and U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, have scored spots on PETA’s annual listing of vegetarian-friendly ballparks. And I don’t just mean for their popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, either — some offer vegan cheesesteak, vegetable sushi, black-bean burgers and other vegan items. That’s really something to cheer about.

So, let’s take a stand against cancer and other diseases — as well as against cruelty to animals — by choosing vegan fare at the ballpark and beyond. And if MLB does its part by continuing to increase vegan offerings at stadiums, it will actually help strike out — instead of perpetuating — cancer.