The World Health Organization Just Said That Processed Meats Do Cause Cancer

Processed Meats Do Cause Cancer – WHO, BBC, 26 October 2015

Its report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

Processed meat is meat that has been modified to increase its shelf-life or alter its taste – such as by smoking, curing or adding salt or preservatives. … It is these additions which could be increasing the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking, such as on a barbeque, can also create carcinogenic chemicals.

But that didn’t leave unprocessed meat off the hook:

Meanwhile, it said red meats were “probably carcinogenic.”

They found a dose-response effect. The more processed meat you ate, and the more often you ate it, the greater your risk for cancer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) came to this conclusion on the advice of its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which assesses the best available scientific evidence:

IARC Monographs: Evaluate Consumption Of Red Meat And Processed Meat

Processed Meat:
Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.

Red Meat:
[IARC] classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A). … This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

3 thoughts on “The World Health Organization Just Said That Processed Meats Do Cause Cancer

  1. Bix Post author

    Here are some other Group 1 carcinogens. You can’t get any more carcinogenic than this group. It now includes “processed meat”:

    X-rays, ultraviolet and gamma radiation
    Tobacco smoke
    Diesel exhaust (thank you, Volkswagon)

  2. Bix Post author

    The meat industry is pushing back. So the media is saying, don’t worry, it’s fine to eat, in moderation. I did not see that in the IARC report….

    First, moderation means different things to different people. As I saw on my poll, it can range from several times a day to a few times a year.

    Second, 22 people looked at over 800 studies. If you want to say meat doesn’t cause cancer, then you need to point to a body of evidence, hundreds of studies, that reflects that. You can’t just say it doesn’t.

    Third, as I often say, you have to look a the background diet to determine risk. Two pieces of bacon/day against a background diet of no other animal food and lots of fruits and vegetables is a lot less riskier than against a background diet of chicken nuggets, pizza, and donuts. In the same way as two cigarettes/day is a lot less riskier against a background of clean country air than against a background of polluted city air and pipe smoking.


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