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New report says bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer

A new report by the World Health Organization has bacon lovers stressed. The report says that eating meats like sausages, bacon and hot dogs can lead to bowel cancer in humans, and red meat is likely the cause.

The review by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released Monday put processed meat in its group 1 list, which includes riskier members such as asbestos and tobacco. This list has “sufficient evidence” of links to cancer, Reuters reports.

There was also evidence that eating red meat, including lamb, pork and beef, can cause cancer in the colon, pancreas or prostate, IARC said in the report.

The report was released after a team of more than 20 health experts from 10 countries reviewed 800 studies on cancer and searched through epidemiological data on consumption of red and processed meats, according to the New York Times.

The findings are meant to help governments make dietary recommendations. And they are linked to increased risks of developing certain cancers to the amount of meat consumed. They found that if consumed every day, 50 grams of processed meat–approximately two slices of sausage or ham–increases the risk of colon cancer by 18 percent.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” an expert at the agency, Kurt Straif, said. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

The report also said that if the association between colon cancer and red meat were proved, the data suggests the risk could increase by 17 percent for every 100 grams of red meat consumed daily.

It’s important to remember that this report does not say one bite of meat will make you sick. It actually says there is no safe amount of meat consumption proven. Though eating more fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of cancer, it doesn’t mean you need to become a vegetarian.

You should also know that although processed meat–which included meat that’s been salted, fermented, cured or smoked to preserve or add flavor in the report– was placed in the same category as cigarettes in the report, it doesn’t mean they are equally dangerous.

The American Institute for Cancer Research, which is responsible for researching links in diet and cancer said, “Although WHO now classifies both processed meat and cigarettes in the highest category of carcinogen, these classifications reflect the strength of the evidence behind them, not the level of risk.”

The group added that they “hope that media coverage of this new report is careful to consider the appropriate real-world context: In some studies, participants who eat diets high in processed meat experience a risk for colorectal cancer that is nearly double that of non-meat-eaters. But according to the CDC, smoking cigarettes multiplies a person’s risk for cancer by as much as 20 times.”


About Meredith Rodefer

Meredith Rodefer
Meredith Rodefer is a freelance writer, who focuses on anything from lifestyle blogging to hard news, and dancer. Beyond Youth Independent, she has written for sites such as Natmonitor.com, CheekyChicago.com and FamilyFocusBlog.com. Contact Meredith: meredith.rodefer@youthindependent.com