Processed Meats Pose Severe Cancer Risk, Says WHO
Processed meats have been placed in the same health risk category as smoking and asbestos by the cancer research body of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday.
Products that have been salted, cured, or otherwise processed to enhance flavor are “carcinogenic to humans,” the Paris-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found in its report, published in the Lancet Oncology. That puts processed meat in the Group 1 carcinogenic category alongside substances like tobacco, alcohol, and plutonium. And non-processed fresh meats like beef, pork, and lamb, among others, are “probably carcinogenic to humans,” the agency said.
Each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily—including bacon, sausages, and ham, as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces—increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, according to the IARC’s report, Carcinogenicity of Consumption of Red and Processed Meat. The report was crafted by 22 international health experts for the IARC Monograph Program, which evaluates environmental causes of cancer in humans.
“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 Monograph Program. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”
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