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Meat link to cancer claim - WHO

Tuesday October 27th, 2015

Processed meat, such as bacon, ham and sausage, is carcinogenic to humans while pure red meat is "probably" able to trigger cancer, World Health Organisation experts said yesterday.

A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer linked processed meats directly to colorectal cancer - known as a group 1 link.

They say there is "sufficient" evidence that it causes colorectal cancer. Each 50 gram portion increases the risk by 18%, they say.

For individuals this is a small risk, according to the report, but it has a global impact on cancer incidence, they say.

Processed meats have been salted, cured, fermented or smoked or put through other processes to improve flavour or help preserve them.

The report says there is "limited" evidence that red meat causes cancer but claims there is "strong mechanistic" evidence. This is known as group 2A link.

Agency director Dr Christopher Wild said: ”These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat.

“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.”

The findings were backed by Cancer Research UK.

Its epidemiologist Professor Tim Key, from Oxford University, said: “We've known for some time about the probable link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, which is backed by substantial evidence.

"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.

"You could try having fish for your dinner rather than sausages, or choosing to have a bean salad for lunch over a bacon, lettuce and tomato."

He added: "Overall red and processed meat cause fewer cases of cancer in the UK than some other lifestyle factors."

Tags: Cancer | Diet & Food | UK News | World Health

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