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Monday
Oct262015

Report: Bacon, ham, hot dogs & other processed meat cause cancer

Credit: iStock PhotoEEW Magazine Health Report/ REUTERS

Eating processed meat can lead to bowel cancer in humans while red meat is a likely cause of the disease, World Health Organization (WHO)

If you really like bacon, ham, hot dogs and other processed meat, you probably won’t like this news.

According to a new World Health Organization (WHO) report, these popular processed meats cause cancer.

The France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, put processed meat such as hot dogs and ham in its group 1 list, which already includes tobacco, asbestos and diesel fumes.

Officials say there is "sufficient evidence" of cancer links to processed meats, which are "classified as carcinogenic to humans.”

Based on 800 different studies, the IARC team said processed meat — that which has been cured, salted, fermented, smoked, or otherwise transformed “to enhance flavor or improve preservation" creates the risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer.

"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," Dr Kurt Straif of the IARC said in a statement.

Red meat was also mentioned among potentially cancer-causing meats.

Beef, lamb and pork, was classified as a "probable" carcinogen in IARC’s group 2A list that also contains glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weed killers.

Red meat was given a lower risk classification than processed meat because there was "limited evidence" that it causes cancer.

The agency estimates that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

Health policy in some countries already calls for consumers to limit intake of red and processed meat, but the IARC said such advice to consumers was, in certain cases, focused on heart disease and obesity.

This time, the clear focus is on cancer.

Not surprising, the IARC's report has prompted vigorous reactions from meat industry groups, which argue that meat is a necessary component of a balanced diet. Meat advocates say cancer risk assessments should also include environmental and lifestyle factors.

The IARC, which does not make specific policy recommendations, cited an estimate from the Global Burden of Disease Project - an international consortium of more than 1,000 researchers - that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat.

This compares with about 1 million cancer deaths per year globally due to tobacco smoking, 600,000 a year due to alcohol consumption, and more than 200,000 each year due to air pollution, it said.

If the cancer link with red meat were confirmed, diets rich in red meat could be responsible for 50,000 deaths a year worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease Project.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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