It’s a sad day for bacon-lovers. The World Health Organization (WHO) made a statement claiming that extensive research has shown a link between processed meats (hot dogs, sausage and bacon) and bowel cancer. The WHO said there is “sufficient evidence” that processed red meats can lead to an increased risk of cancer, placing them in the same category as tobacco and asbestos.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research of Cancer (IARC) reviewed the health effects of processed meat by examining 800 studies with 22 health experts in France, earlier in October. Dr. Kurt Straif, a researcher for the IARC said, “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.” While Dr. Straif stated that the risk of bowel cancer due to processed meat consumption is small, the IARC’s review presents different, startling results. They estimated that each 50 gram (1.7 ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increases one’s risk of bowel cancer by 18%. The Global Burden of Disease Project estimated that about 34,000 cancer deaths each year are attributed to diets high in processed meats.
While these numbers seem terrifying, the IARC does not place the risk associated with eating processed meats on the same level of risk associated with different substances in the category, such as cigarettes.
The North American Meat Institute argues that red meat provides protein, vitamins, and minerals that are essential to a well-balanced diet, claiming that the IARC report “defies common sense.”
If you love bacon, don’t panic. You do not have to give it up entirely. Eating it every once in a while is not going to do much harm, just be sure to enjoy it in moderation.