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Processed meat can cause cancer

Date:
October 27, 2015
Source:
World Health Organization
Summary:
Researchers have evaluated the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. They classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans, based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect. Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans.
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Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.
Credit: © volff / Fotolia

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has evaluated the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat.

Red meat

After thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect.

This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

Processed meat

Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer. 

Meat consumption and its effects

The consumption of meat varies greatly between countries, with from a few percent up to 100% of people eating red meat, depending on the country, and somewhat lower proportions eating processed meat.

The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

"For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed," says Dr Kurt Straif, head of the IARC monographs programme."In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance."

The IARC working group considered more than 800 studies that investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets. The most influential evidence came from large prospective cohort studies conducted over the past 20 years.

Public health

"These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat," says Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC. "At the same time, red meat has nutritional value. Therefore, these results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations."


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by World Health Organization. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Véronique Bouvard, Dana Loomis, Kathryn Z Guyton, Yann Grosse, Fatiha El Ghissassi, Lamia Benbrahim-Tallaa, Neela Guha, Heidi Mattock, Kurt Straif, International Agency for Research on Cancer Monograph Working Group. Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. The Lancet Oncology, 2015 (in press) DOI: 10.1016/S1470-2045(15)00444-1

Cite This Page:

World Health Organization. "Processed meat can cause cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151027135116.htm>.
World Health Organization. (2015, October 27). Processed meat can cause cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151027135116.htm
World Health Organization. "Processed meat can cause cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151027135116.htm (accessed July 25, 2016).

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