3 Things You Need to Know About Processed Meats and Cancer

You may have recently heard about the World Health Organization’s announcement regarding processed meats being carcinogenic or cancer-causing. Here are the top three things you should know about this announcement.

1. There Are Many Different Types of Meats Included in the Report

The report is in reference to processed meat and red meat. Processed meat is defined as any meat that’s been “transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.” Red meat is beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton or goat.

2. Carcinogen Classification Can be Confusing

In the report, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a well-known and respected agency of the World Health Organization, groups processed meat in the same carcinogenic group as smoking and alcohol and red meat in the same group as ultraviolet radiation. It’s important to remember that this classification indicates the hazard level of red and processed meats as it relates to cancer, but not the potential risk or how potent a carcinogen red and processed meats are. 

While the report found that daily consumption of processed meat (50 grams or 3 slices of bacon) may raise the risk of colorectal cancer, this was an increase by 18 percent (.18), not to 18 percent (18.0). According to the National Cancer Institute, an average American’s lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 4.5 percent. If you were to consume 50 grams of processed meat daily, your possible risk would increase to 5.3 percent, which is very low.

3. This Doesn’t Mean You Should Avoid Red and Processed Meats; Moderation is Key

If you are eating a diet that is high in meat products and processed meats, you may want to consider cutting back a bit. However, you don’t need to eliminate them. They can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced and active lifestyle.

Image: Bacon by cyclonebill is licensed by CC BY SA 2.0.