The World Health Organization links bacon, sausage, and processed meat to cancer


The World Health Organization (WHO) has just released a report claiming that bacon, sausage, and processed meat can lead to cancer.

Published in Lancet Oncology, the study claims that consuming 50 grams of processed meat a day, approximately one hot dog, could increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Red meat also comes under fire—the report claims that it “probably” causes cancer.

The study was created by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. A 22-member panel of international experts looked at decades of research, which included animal experiments, studies of human diet and health, and studies of cell mechanisms.

According to the Toronto Star, comparing processed meat to cigarettes and asbestos garnered immediate pushback from the U.S. beef industry, which denied a link between red meat and cancer. Betsy Booren of the North American Meat Institute claimed the panel was biased.

“It was clear, sitting in the IARC meeting, that many of the panellists were aiming for a specific result despite old, weak, inconsistent, self-reported intake data.”

Her organization said the connection drawn between red meat and cancer “denied common sense.”

For many cancer researchers, the study backed up what they already knew. Organizations like the World Cancer Research Fund have been advising people about the link between processed meat, red meat, and cancer for years.

Tim Key, Cancer Research UK’s epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, confirmed with the Guardian that the report was less than shocking.

“We’ve known for some time about the probable link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, which is backed by substantial evidence.”

He also said that he doesn’t think the report means consumers have to give up these types of meat completely, just that they should monitor their intake.

“This decision doesn’t mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat. But if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down. You could try having fish for your dinner rather than sausages, or choosing to have a bean salad for lunch over a BLT.”