Put down that packaged bacon: A new report from the World Health Organization laid out the link between red and processed meats and their potential to cause cancer.
A mere 50 grams of processed meat a day — about two slices of bacon — increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
For comparison, the meat in a McDonald’s Big Mac weighs about 66 grams; a regular Cheeseburger, 33 grams.
And while processed meat were labeled the riskier of the two, red meat should also be limited, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a bureau of the World Health Organization.
“These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat,” Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC, said in a statement. “At the same time, red meat has nutritional value. Therefore, these results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.”
Red meat was named “probably carcinogenic,” meaning that eating a lot of it probably has the potential to cause cancer. A porterhouse steak, lamb shank, pork chops, veal and goat are classified by the USDA as red meat.
Processed meats, like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and burgers from fast food chains, came with a stronger warning: “carcinogenic.” Meaning eating processed meats has the potential to cause cancer.
Fact Box: What the WHO report says
“After thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect. This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.”
“Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans(Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”
Roughly 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to diets high in processed meat the World Health Organization said, citing estimates by the Global Burden of Disease Project.
The World Health Organization also pointed out that they weren’t calling for cutting out red and processed meats completely, just to eat them in moderation.
“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, Head of the IARC Monographs Programme, said.
While colon cancer was specifically studied, the report also noted pancreatic and prostate cancers were also seen as associated with red and processed meats.
Other big cancer killers across the globe:
– Smoking: 1 million cancer deaths a year
– Alcohol: 600,000 cancer deaths a year
– Air pollution: 200,000 cancer deaths a year
Cancer aside, red and processed meats are still linked to increased risks of death from heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
WHO study:Red meat and processed meat can cause cancer
Bad news for bacon and sausage lovers. The World Health Organization says those foods can cause colon and stomach cancer. CCTV America’s Jim Spellman reports.
WHO study: Red meat and processed meat can cause cancerBad news for bacon and sausage lovers. The World Health Organization says those foods can cause colon and stomach cancer. CCTV America's Jim Spellman reports.
Mariana Stern on the World Heath Organization report
For a more in depth look at the WHO report and to find out what we’re really eating, CCTV America’s Mike Walter spoke to Mariana Stern. She’s an Associate Professor at the University of Southern California. Stern is also one of the experts who contributed to the report.