WHO: Processed meats cause cancer

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ACCORDING to the World Health Organisation (WHO), processed meats do cause cancer.

In a report, WHO said, 50g of meats such as sausages, ham, and bacon – less than two slices – a day increased chances of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent. However, WHO added that meat also had health benefits. Cancer Research UK said it was a reason to cut down on red and processed meats.

Processed meat is meat modified either by smoking, curing or adding salt or preservatives to alter its taste and increase shelf-life. High temperature cooking, such as barbequing, could be increasing risks of cancer as it creates carcinogenic chemicals.


WHO has placed processed meat under the same category as plutonium and alcohol for cancer causes.

“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.

Red meat is a major source for iron, zinc and vitamin B12, and it also has nutritional value.

One of the advisors to the WHO report Dr Teresa Norat, told BBC News website, “People should limit consumption of red meat and avoid consuming processed meat, but they should also have a diet rich in fibre from fruit and vegetables, and maintain an adequate body weight throughout life and limit the consumption of alcohol and be physically active.”

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


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