Processed meat, such as bacon or hot dogs, causes cancer, a World Health Organization group has said in a report.
The group said red meat, including beef, pork and lamb, probably causes cancer, too.
Its report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18 per cent.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research division of the WHO, said:
We are classifying processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen to humans — a group that also includes smoking tobacco and asbestos exposure.
For unprocessed red meat such as beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse or goat, the review found “strong” evidence of a cancer-causing effect, but not sufficient to place it in the same group of cancer-causing agents as tobacco smoke, asbestos, and now also processed meat.
The report said the red meat risk was mainly for cancer of the colon and rectum, but also the pancreas and prostate.
IARC official Kurt Straif said given that a large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.
The agency has specified that though for an individual, the risk of getting cancer from eating processed meat was statistically “small”, but “increases with the amount of meat consumed.”
What is processed meat?
In a press release, the IARC defines processed meats as “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”
The organization specifically lists processed meat as bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.
Why are they bad for us?
It is a matter of research how the processed meat can cause cells to become cancerous, but the chemicals involved in the production of processed meat could be one of the main reasons. It is because once in the body they can be converted into cancer-causing compounds, the Telegraph reported. Grilling or smoking meat can also create suspected carcinogens.
Researchers recommend that the key takeaway from this research is moderation and eating sensibly. In short: eat more veggies, fruits, less red and processed meat, and get plenty of fibre.