Pro­cessed meats cause can­cer - WHO

Lesotho Times - - Health -

PRO­CESSED meats — such as ba­con, sausages and ham — do cause can­cer, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO).

Its re­port said 50g of pro­cessed meat a day — less than two slices of ba­con — in­creased the chance of de­vel­op­ing col­orec­tal can­cer by 18 per­cent.

Mean­while, it said red meats were “prob­a­bly car­cino­genic” but there was lim­ited ev­i­dence.

The WHO did stress that meat also had health ben­e­fits.

Can­cer Re­search UK said this was a rea­son to cut down rather than give up red and pro­cessed meats.

And added that an oc­ca­sional ba­con sand­wich would do lit­tle harm.

Pro­cessed meat is meat that has been mod­i­fied to in­crease its shelf-life or al­ter its taste - such as by smok­ing, cur­ing or adding salt or preser­va­tives.

It is th­ese ad­di­tions which could be in­creas­ing the risk of can­cer. High tem­per­a­ture cook­ing, such as on a bar­beque, can also cre­ate car­cino­genic chem­i­cals.

How bad? The WHO has come to the con­clu­sion on the ad­vice of its In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer, which as­sesses the best avail­able sci­en­tific ev­i­dence.

It has now placed pro­cessed meat in the same cat­e­gory as plu­to­nium, but also al­co­hol as they def­i­nitely do cause can­cer.

How­ever, this does not mean they are equally dan­ger­ous. A ba­con sand­wich is not as bad as smok­ing.

“For an in­di­vid­ual, the risk of de­vel­op­ing col­orec­tal (bowel) can­cer be­cause of their con­sump­tion of pro­cessed meat re­mains small, but this risk in­creases with the amount of meat con­sumed,” Dr Kurt Straif from the WHO said.

Es­ti­mates sug­gest 34,000 deaths from can­cer ev­ery year could be down to di­ets high in pro­cessed meat.

That is in con­trast to one mil­lion deaths from can­cer caused by smok­ing and 600,000 at­trib­uted to al­co­hol each year.

Red meat does have nu­tri­tional value too and is a ma­jor source of iron, zinc and vi­ta­min B12.

How­ever, the WHO said there was lim­ited ev­i­dence that 100g of red meat a day in­creased the risk of can­cer by 17 per­cent. An eight ounce steak is 225g. The WHO said its find­ings were im­por­tant for help­ing coun­tries give bal­anced di­etary ad­vice.

Lit­tle harm Prof Tim Key, from the Can­cer Re­search UK and the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, said: “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.

“Eat­ing a ba­con bap ev­ery once in a while isn’t go­ing to do much harm — hav­ing a healthy diet is all about mod­er­a­tion.”

The industry body the Meat Ad­vi­sory Panel said “avoid­ing red meat in the diet is not a pro­tec­tive strat­egy against can­cer” and said the fo­cus should be al­co­hol, smok­ing and body weight. — BBC

The WHO has listed pro­cessed meat among the most can­cer-caus­ing sub­stances, along­side ar­senic and as­bestos.

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