“Meat is now classified as the same level of cancer-causing products as tobacco,” the WHO says

Jano le Roux

Processed meats, such as ham, bacon, salami, and frankfurts, have been categorized as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer) by the World Health Organization, indicating that there is good evidence that they cause cancer. Processed meat consumption raises the risk of bowel and stomach cancer. 

Beef, lamb, and pork are all categorized as Group 2A carcinogens, which indicates they are likely to cause cancer.

Processed meat is meat that has been altered in some way, such as salting, curing, fermenting, smoking, or other methods, to improve flavor or preserve it. Pork or beef make up the majority of processed meats, although they can also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products like blood.

Hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, biltong, or beef jerky, as well as canned meat and meat-based dishes and sauces, are examples of processed meat.

Photo by Kyle Mackie on Unsplash

In 2014, an international advisory council selected red meat and processed meat as a high priority for the IARC Monographs Program to evaluate. 

This guideline was based on epidemiological studies that suggested that high consumption of red meat or processed meat may be linked to minor increases in the risk of certain malignancies. Although these hazards are minor, they may have significant public health implications since meat is consumed by a large number of people worldwide, and meat consumption is increasing in low- and middle-income nations. 

Although several health organizations already advise against eating too much meat, these recommendations are mostly geared at lowering the risk of other ailments. With this in mind, it was critical for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to give authoritative scientific information on the cancer risks linked with red and processed meat consumption.

The classification of red meat is based on limited data from epidemiological studies that reveal positive links between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer, as well as significant mechanistic evidence.

Limited evidence suggests that a positive link between exposure to the chemical and cancer has been discovered, but that other explanations (officially known as chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out.

Colorectal cancer has the strongest, but still limited, evidence for a link with red meat consumption. There is also evidence of a relationship between prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Several studies have looked into the cancer risks connected with various forms of red meat, such as beef and pork, and processed meats, such as ham and hot dogs. However, there isn’t enough evidence to establish if certain types of red meat or processed meat are associated with a higher or decreased risk of cancer.

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