As I reported last year on two occasions in this blog, the World Health Organization has made some serious charges that some of our favourite foods lead to cancer risk. Processed meat was classified as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. And red meat was classified as a probable carcinogen that could lead to cancer.
Processed meat includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. It refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavour it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and goat.
Twenty-two experts from 10 countries reviewed more than 800 studies to reach their conclusions. They found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. That’s the equivalent of about 4 strips of bacon or 1 hot dog. For red meat, there was evidence of increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer.
Overall, the lifetime risk of someone developing colon cancer is 5%. To put the numbers into perspective, the increased risk from eating the amount of processed meat in the study would raise average lifetime risk to almost 6%.
Colleen Doyle, American Cancer Society managing director of nutrition and physical activity, says, “We should be limiting red and processed meat to help reduce colon cancer risk, and possibly, the risk of other cancers. The occasional hot dog or hamburger is OK.”
Nutritionists have long recommended a diet that limits processed meat and red meat, and that is high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, (see my blog No.12 Mediterranean Diet cuts uterine cancer risk). They recommend choosing fish, poultry, or beans instead of red meat and processed meat. And to refine this further, I suggest wild as opposed to farmed fish, and free range poultry.
National Academy of Sciences, USA. Red meat and Cancer progression.