World Health Organization deems processed meats carcinogenic

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By Shen Gao
Staff Writer

Recently, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) published a study in which the carcinogenicity, the extent to which something may be involved in increasing the risk of cancer, of red meat and processed meat were assessed.

Bacon on a rack

(Photo from Didriks/

The results may be soul-crushing to bacon-lovers.

Twenty-two scientists from various countries conducted this study at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in France. They evaluated the association of cancer with consuming red or processed meat. Processed meat is modified meat that may have been cured, smoked, or to which salt and/or preservatives have been added. Some examples are bacon, sausages, hot dogs, beef jerky, and ham.

Data from the report shows that a 17 percent increased risk in cancer was associated with 100 grams of consumption of red meat per day and an 18 percent increase in risk with 50 grams of processed meat per day. To put it into perspective, 50 grams of processed meat is about three slices of bacon.

A majority of the researchers concluded that there is sufficient evidence to support the notion that processed meat increases the risk of cancer; however, they did not reach the same conclusion for red meat. The conclusion takes into consideration chance, bias, and confounding variables — outside variables that have a correlation with the independent and dependent variables in the study. It was concluded that processed meat was “carcinogenic to humans” while red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Dr. Kurt Straif from the WHO asserts that “for an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”

Regardless, the WHO report does not mean that we should all just stop eating red and processed meat, but rather looking out for what we eat and having a balanced diet is what matters. Everything in moderation is key.