Processed meats such as ham and sausage can lead to colon cancer, but red meat is probably cancer causing also. According to the World Health Organization, foods such as hot dogs, cold cuts and bacon should be avoided if you want to improve your health and prevent cancer.
Experts from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has been looking over studies for decades and has come up with substances that cause cancer and labeled them on a scale. Processed meat is in group 1 which causes cancer and red meat is in group 2A which probably causes cancer. Colorectal and stomach cancers have been related to processed meats in the past so this classification is not all that shocking, but it does shed new light.
The overall increase in risk is small and experts cannot pinpoint exactly how much meat is too much, but they do mention that the more you eat the more your risk increases. Beef producers disagree with the findings by saying the evidence is weak and not all panel members were in absolute agreement.
“Cancer is a complex disease that even the best and brightest minds don’t fully understand,” says Shalene McNeill, PhD, RD, executive director of human nutrition research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“Billions of dollars have been spent on studies all over the world, and no single food has ever been proven to cause or cure cancer,” she says in a statement posted on the group’s web site.
McNeill does have a valid point there but eating too much red meat such as beef is still not as healthy for you as white meat.
There was sufficient evidence to label processed meats in the top tier of cancer risks – group 1 – along with asbestos and tobacco smoke. However, eating a hot dog is definitely not equal to smoking a cigarette it just means scientists are sure something causes cancer.
Red meats include pork, veal, goat, horse, lamb or mutton. Processed meats are fermented, salted, smoked, cured or treated to either keep them from spoiling or to enhance their flavor.
Experts still cannot pinpoint exactly how processed and red meats cause cancer. When meats are smoked and cured certain chemicals are created that are recognized to increase cancer risk. Some cooking methods such as frying or grilling that burn meat at high temperatures can develop cancer-causing chemicals in meat. I prefer baking or broiling when I cook to avoid the grease and preserve more nutrients so this is the healthier option for me.
The panel says that each daily 1.8 ounces of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancers by 18%. Each daily 3.5 ounces of red meats increases the colorectal cancer risk by 17%.
I believe that since the risk of developing cancer from processed and red meats is so small, no one should panic if he or she eats bacon or a hot dog occasionally. If you are trying to lose weight and improve your health, slowly reducing the amount of red meat and processed meats is a great way to begin.
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Source: World Health Organization “Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat” October 2015