In a statement released on October 26, 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” According to the health page of the BBC website, processed meat includes “bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.”
The statement also included the classification of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)” based on “limited” evidence.
For those of us who love hamburgers, this is concerning. For those who love BLTs, bologna sandwiches and bacon with their eggs every morning this is alarming.
This also isn’t the first time such a connection has been drawn between certain meat consumption and cancer.1 The American Cancer Society has been encouraging less consumption of red meat and processed meat for years.2 The WHO announcement, however, puts “teeth” behind the advice.
To put this in perspective, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in men and women in the United States (behind prostate and lung cancer for men; behind breast and lung cancer for women). More than 50,000 men and women die each year from colorectal cancer in the U.S.3
The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 5% (5 out of every 100 people). According to the WHO study, the consumption of 1.75 ounces of processed meat and/or bacon every day raises that figure 18% to about 6% (6 out of every 100 people). Not a huge increase unless you are that sixth person!
Look at it on a national scale. The consumption of 1.75 ounces of processed meat and/or bacon daily adds an additional 30,000 people who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Admittedly, the 1% increase looks small, but the resulting 30,000 people is significant.
WebMD has an interesting “moderation” article on bacon in the diet. Check it out at: http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/can-bacon-be-part-of-a-healthy-diet
1 Link: http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf (accessed on October 27, 2015)
2 Link: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-34620617 (accessed on October 27, 2015)
3 Link: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics (accessed on October 27, 2015)