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Image / Editorial

Eating Too Much Processed Meat Has Been Linked To Cancer


by Jennifer McShane
26th Oct 2015
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For today’s depressing foodie news of the day, it looks like we may have to consider cutting back on the processed/red meats we love as eating an excess of bacon, sausages, ham, corned beef and hot dogs has been linked to causing cancer.

The?International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that processed meats are as big a cancer threat as cigarettes. How grim.

The health authority has placed cured and processed meats in the same category as carcinogenic substances such as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.

Red meat is also “probably” carcinogenic (an agent that is directly involved in causing cancer), with associations mainly with bowel cancer, but also with pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, according to the report.

The report found eating 50g of processed meat a day (one sausage or two rashers of bacon) increases the chance of developing bowel cancer by nearly 20%. That’s a high percentage for such little intake.

In the report, 22 experts from 10 countries, convened by the IARC Monographs Programme, classified the consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, based on evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and “strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect”.

Dr Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Programme, said: “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.?

The IARC noted that an average person’s risk of developing something like colorectal cancer, for example, remains small, but that it will be increased when more meat is eaten. There are, of course, many nutrients and proteins found in meats that contribute to a healthy diet, which means that an average consumption meat is totally fine.

So in other words, don’t panic, it just follows the ?everything in moderation? dietary guide and just reaffirms that it’s worth monitoring/cutting back on your intake if you feel you over indulge in a well above average intake of red/certain processed meats.

At current levels of consumption, the IARC said meat consumption and the impact on cancer incidence is “of public health importance,” but that it can be solved with better dietary decisions.

So, while the findings are interesting (if depressing) and worth noting, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo your beloved sausage/rasher sandwich at the weekend just yet.

Read the full report here.

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