Meat and Cancer: The WHO Makes the Connection

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a widely anticipated report today about the risks of eating red and processed meat. How much and how it’s prepared seems to matter.

The France-based agency placed processed meat such as sausage and bacon in the Group 1 list of its “carcinogenic to humans” ranking.

This makes processed meat, which can include anything salted, cured, fermented, smoked or otherwise preserved, the newest addition to a category that includes asbestos and smoking.

Limiting the “with bacon or sausage” breakfast to once or twice a week may be better for more than just your waistline. The IARC’s panel of health experts reported that eating a serving about the size of your palm (50 grams) each day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent.

The panel didn’t find the same tipping point when it came to red meat consumption. But it also got the nod, although a less serious classification, as “possibly carcinogenic” for its link to pancreatic and prostate cancer.

So on the menu less often but also low and slow when it comes to preparation. Giving your steak a good sear may in fact be a bad thing as high temperature preparation, including barbecuing, was found to increase the risk of carcinogenic chemicals produced by cooking.