Ham, hot dogs, lunch meat, sausage and bacon are carcinogenic? Indeed they are and they rank right up there with the most carcinogenic offenders reported the Guardian on Oct. 26. Processed meat causes cancer like cigarettes, asbestos, arsenic and alcohol. Oh yeah, bacon lovers demand, says who? Says the World Health Organization, that’s WHO! WHO places cured meats alongside smoking as a major link to cancer. A report from the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says there is enough evidence to put processed meats in the same group 1 as cigarettes for carcinogenic effects. Artificially processed meats have a direct causal link with bowel or colorectal cancer.
In fact all red meats–beef, pork, lamb–are on the IARC 2A list, meaning that they are probably carcinogenic to humans. And that’s over and above the risk of heart disease and circulatory problems from saturated fat and cholesterol in meat. Processed meats are worse because they contain more fillers, preservatives, additives and flavorings. Artificially cured meats are high in chemicals like monosodium glutamate (MSG) nitrates and nitrates. IARC expert found that eating one 50 gram portion of processed meat daily bumps up your chance of getting colorectal cancer by 18 percent. a cancer risk similar to cigarettes. The more processed meat a person consumes, the greater the risk of colorectal cancer. So maybe next time, hold the bacon on your BLT and have the fish?
The groups most at risk from cured meat are children and teens. Their school lunches and breakfasts are full of processed meats: hot dogs, sliced ham and turkey, smoked sausage, cold cuts, lunch meat, bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches and sausage patties. The fast food they so love is all processed. Getting kids to cut down on processed meat may be difficult. Another group that is unhappy about the report is, not surprisingly, big meat. Meat industry representatives lashed out angrily at the IARC comparison of meat and cigarettes. They railed against suggestions that meat is as carcinogenic as asbestos.
But this decision to group meat with cigarettes, asbestos, alcohol and other carcinogenic substances was a long time in the consideration. International scientists chewed long over on the question. But this isn’t the first time meat has been indicted. The World Cancer Research Fund has long been advising that people eat few to no hot dogs, lunch meat, ham, bacon, smoked sausage and cold cuts. They suggest eating no more than 500g a week of red meat a week. Robert Pickard, a an emeritus professor at the University of Cardiff categorically rejected the notion that avoiding red meat carcinogens. He said promoting smoking cessation, maintaining normal body weight and avoiding alcohol should be the top priorities of the IARC, not picking processed meat. But Pickard also sits on the Meat Advisory Panel.