France – A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) published on Monday shows that processed meats such as bacon and sausages have the same carcinogenic effect as smoking and asbestos.
These allegations were argued by the meat industry, which suggests that the cause of cancer cannot be associated to a single source since lifestyle and environmental issues can also be considered as cancer-causing factors.
The experiment was conducted by 22 scientists from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France. More than 800 studies about meat and cancer were analyzed by investigators. They diversified the research by evaluating studies from several continents. These studies contained information from the past 20 years on several types of cancer and how they are related to different kinds of diets.
After the study, the IARC classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” linked to colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers and unprocessed red meat as “probably carcinogenic” which included steak and lamb. Now, the WHO categorizes processed meat in the same category as smoking but emphasized that this did not mean they were equally dangerous.
As little as two slices of ham a day, 50 grams or 1.75 ounces of processed meat, increase the risk of cancer by 18%. Still, authors have explained that risks associated with processed meat are relatively small to begin with. The exact amount of processed meat that would be dangerous could not be defined by the study, yet investigators believe that the risk and the amount consumed are dependent one from the other. This means that the risk grows with the amount consumed.
Christopher Wild, head of the WHO’s cancer agency said, “These results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations,” as CNN reported.
Out of the 8.2 million deaths that were caused by cancer in 2012, the WHO estimates that only 34,000 can be attributed to diets that are high in processed meat. That would be an approximate 0.414%.
Doctors suggest that a diet heavy on veggies, nuts and fruit, with limits on meat and dairy, is the best way to decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. They also suggest that you can even keep your brain healthier which can help you live longer. Lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and not smoking are other ways to stay healthy.