Meat doesn’t only affect your heart – it can lead to many other problems as well. On October 26, 2015, the World Health Organization (W.H.O) officially concluded that processed meats are linked to cancer. These include salted, cured, smoked, or fermented meat like hot dogs, sausages, corned beef, and jerky. The W.H.O based their conclusion on the results of over 800 scientific studies. Most of the studies showed a link between meat and colorectal cancer, but many others found that meat may cause other types of cancer as well, including prostate, pancreatic, and stomach cancer. Based on sufficient evidence regarding the association between consumption of processed meat and colorectal cancer, processed meat was classified as a Group 1 carcinogen. This group of carcinogens include, but are not limited to X-rays, radiation, and even radioactive elements such as Radium. So, perhaps think twice about that weekend barbecue.
the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the cancer agency of World Health Organization, released a report regarding the consumption of red and processed meat, and their role in the development of cancer. A Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme to thoroughly review the accumulated scientific literature regarding the consumption of red meat and processed meat from over 800 different studies on cancer in humans. The report refers to red meat as unprocessed mammalian muscle meat, and most notably includes beef, pork, and lamb. Processed meat refers to meat that has been salted, cured, smoked, or fermented. Such meats include hot dogs, sausages, corned beef, and beef jerky to name a few. The process of cooking meat at high temperatures, in addition to the actually processing meats, have been shown to result in known or suspected cancer causing chemicals. These agents include things called N-nitroso-compounds (NOC), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA), which are all known to damage DNA. Popular ways of preparing meats such as barbecuing and curing or smoking meats may not be so great after all.
This report assessed over 800 epidemiological studies that were performed all over the world, thus taking into account a diverse array of diets. These studies all sought to find a link between eating red or processed meat and the development of cancer. Colorectal cancer was the most studied type of cancer, and half of the studies performed showed a positive association with the consumption of red and processed meats. One such study, a meta-analysis of colorectal cancer in ten cohort studies reported a statistically significant dose–response relationship, with a 17% increased risk (95% CI 1·05–1·31) per 100 g per day of red meat and an 18% increase (95% CI 1·10–1·28) per 50 g per day of processed meat (Chan DS, Lau R, Aune D, et al). This study showed that a diet including either 3.5 ounces of red meat or 1.75 ounces of processed meat daily were associated with increased risks of colorectal cancer. More than 15 other cancers were also shown to have a positive association, including prostate, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.
Based on sufficient evidence regarding the association between consumption of processed meat and colorectal cancer, the Working Group has classified it as a Group 1 carcinogen, which means it is known to cause cancer in humans. This group of carcinogens include, but are not limited to X-rays, radiation, and even radioactive element such as Radium.
Based on limited evidence regarding the association between consumption of red meat and cancer, the Working Group has classified it as a Group 2A carcinogen, meaning it probably causes cancer in humans. However, the report states that strong mechanistic evidence exists for red meat as a cancer causing agent because of the fact that cooking red meat at high temperatures creates chemicals that cause DNA damage. Group 2A carcinogens include, but are not limited to UV radiation, as well as many chemicals.
A Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme to thoroughly review the accumulated scientific literature regarding the consumption of red meat and processed meat from over 800 different studies on cancer in humans. Red meat refers to unprocessed mammalian muscle meat. Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed by salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. While cooking allows for red meat to be easily digested by the body, it “can result in the formation of carcinogenic chemicals, including heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAA) and PAH.” ½ Some people may question the consumption of raw meats to decrease the chance of cancer, but it usually also comes with the risk of getting an infection.
1 Alaejos MS, Afonso AM. Factors that affect the content of heterocyclic aromatic amines in foods. Comp Rev Food Sci Food Safe 2011; 10: 52–108.
2 Alomirah H, Al-Zenki S, Al-Hooti S, et al. Concentrations and dietary exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from grilled and smoked foods. Food Control 2011; 22: 2028–35.
3 Chan DS, Lau R, Aune D, et al. Red and processed meat and colorectal cancer incidence: meta-analysis of prospective studies. PLoS One 2011; 6: e20456.
“This recommendation was based on epidemiological studies suggesting that small increases in the risk of several cancers may be associated with high consumption of red meat or processed meat.”
World Health Organization – Meat is linked to higher cancer risk
Screening for Colorectal Cancer