An IARC report identified processed meat as a carcinogenic agent that can cause bowel and colorectal cancer. Bacon, ham, hot dogs and other processed meat cause cancer. Red meat can also cause cancer.
The report from the World Health Organization's (WHO’s) cancer arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has reported that there is enough evidence to detail processed meats as group 1 carcinogens.
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The IARC also places red meat in group 2A, as probably carcinogenic to humans. The statement from the IARC, published as an article in the journal Lancet Oncology, substantially toughens the line, especially against processed meat.
While cancer scientists are concerned about the risks of eating too much meat, some nutritionists maintain that the extra risk is relatively small and that meat has other benefits. Eating red meat is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer.
The World Cancer Research Fund has long been advising people that processed meat is a cancer hazard. It advises eating products such as ham, bacon and salami as little as possible and having no more than 500g a week of red meat, including beef, pork and lamb.
The decision comes from IARC after a year worth of deliberations by international scientists. Prof Tim Key, Cancer Research UK’s epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, said that Cancer Research UK supports IARC’s decision.
The decision is that there’s strong enough evidence to classify processed meat as a cause of cancer, and red meat as a probable cause of cancer. He said that we’ve known for some time about the probable link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, which is backed by substantial evidence.
Hailed by cancer researchers worldwide, the report has triggered an immediate and furious response from the industry. The industry and especially the scientists it funds are skeptical of the report.
They have already rejected any comparison between cigarettes and meat. Betsy Booren, the institute’s vice-president of scientific affairs said while commenting on the report’s outcome.
She said that it was clear, sitting in the IARC meeting that many of the panellists were aiming for a specific result despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data. She said that they tortured the data to ensure a specific outcome.
Red and processed meat are among 940 agents reviewed by the IARC and found to pose some level of theoretical ‘hazard’. Only one substance, a chemical in yoga pants, has been declared by the IARC not to cause cancer.