‘Processed red meat causes cancer’ – WHO

'Processed red meat causes cancer' - WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) has said that eating processed meats can cause colorectal cancer in humans.

In simple terms, WHO experts said that red meat is also a likely cause of the disease.

The world health body placed processed meats, including bacon and sausages, in the same category as smoking and asbestos for causing cancer.

The review by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), released on Monday, said additionally that there was some link between the consumption of red meat and pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Some scientists and researchers said the news may not add much to long-standing health recommendations to limit consumption of such meat.

The report revealed that as little as two slices of bacon can increase the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer by 18%.

But IARC classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” on its group one list along with tobacco and asbestos, for which there is “sufficient evidence” of cancer links.

Each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, the agency estimated.

A 50-gram portion would be the equivalent of eating one hot dog or two slices of bacon. Americans eat about 21.7 grams of processed pork per day, according to a 2011 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Red meat was classified as probably carcinogenic in IARC’s group 2A list, joining glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weedkillers.

The IARC examined some 800 studies during a meeting of 22 health experts earlier this month.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr Kurt Straif of the IARC said in a statement.

The classification for red meat, defined as all types of mammalian meat including beef, lamb and pork, reflected “limited evidence” that it causes cancer. The IARC found links mainly with colorectal cancer – which is a cancer that starts either in the colon or rectum – but also observed associations with pancreatic and prostate cancer.

Inconclusive evidence of a link between processed meat and stomach cancer was also observed, it said.

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