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Processed meat causes cancer, health experts warn

‘Consumption of red meat was also positively associated with pancreatic and with prostate cancer’

Photographer: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

DETROIT – Processed meat, such as bacon or hot dogs, causes cancer, according to a World Heath Organization group. The group says red meat, including beef, pork and lamb, probably cause cancer, too.

Many studies show the links in tests that show how eating these foods can cause cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in its report, released in the Lancet medical journal.

"These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat," Dr. Christopher Wild, who directs IARC, said in a statement.

Most reports on the links between meat and cancer have been softened with some element of doubt, but the IARC uses clear and direct language in saying processed meat causes cancer. There are no phrases such as "may cause" in the report.

More: Processed meat causes cancer, says WHO

"Overall, the Working Group classified consumption of processed meat as 'carcinogenic to humans' on the basis of sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer," the report said.

"Additionally, a positive association with the consumption of processed meat was found for stomach cancer. The Working Group classified consumption of red meat as 'probably carcinogenic to humans'," it added. "Consumption of red meat was also positively associated with pancreatic and with prostate cancer."

It also defines red meat.

"Red meat refers to unprocessed mammalian muscle meat—for example, beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, or goat meat—including minced or frozen meat; it is usually consumed cooked," the IARC said in its report.

"Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but might also contain other red meats, poultry, offal (eg, liver), or meat byproducts such as blood."

“The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent,” the IARC said.


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