Warning: Processed meats cause cancer
If you are among the millions who love to eat processed meats such as bacon and hot dogs, the World Health Organization (WHO) wants you to know that you’re killing yourself.
While reports in the past have suggested a possible link between the consumption of processed meats and colorectal cancer, the new report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s cancer agency, doesn’t hedge, declaring the food products to be "carcinogenic to humans."
According to the IARC report, each 50-gram portion of meat eaten on a daily basis increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
The WHO’s new classification of processed meats put them in the same category as smoking and asbestos. The group explained, however, that does not mean that it views processed meats as equally dangerous as those substances. WHO said that 34,000 deaths a year across the globe can be attributed to diets high in processed meats.
"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," said Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Programme, in a statement. "In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance."
As expected, meat industry groups came out strongly against the IARC report.
"They tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome," Betsy Booren, vice president of scientific affairs at the North American Meat Institute, told CNN.
According to the IARC, its researchers reviewed more than 800 studies that investigated links between the consumption of red or processed meats and more than a dozen types of cancer. The most important evidence came from studies conducted over the past 20 years.
- IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat – International Agency for Research on Cancer
- Processed meat causes cancer, says WHO – CNN
- WHO links processed meat to cancer – and vegetarians get smug on Twitter – CNN
Should the labels on processed meats come with a health warning in light of the IARC’s findings? What effect, if any, will the IARC have on the consumption of processed meat in the U.S.?