Cancer and tobacco seem to go hand in hand in lots of health-related publications, if its the conversations of passive smoking or the rather unsubtle pictures that are put on cigarette boxes to scare people off smoking. Alongside it are other carcinogenic products such as arsenic and pesticides- however, less of a worry to the general population. But there could be a new subject in which we should be concerned about: processed meat has now been classified by the World Health Organisation as carcinogenic. Does this mean no more bacon, sausages or burgers?
This conclusion is based on 800 studies from around the world that found “sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer”. They are saying that if you eat two bacon rashers each day, you are at an increased risk with 5.9% of those studied attaining colorectal cancer. But if you don’t your chances are only at the lower level of 5%, so how much of a risk is it really?
“Although there may be a direct correlation between cancer and processed foods or tobacco, it does not mean they have equal risks. Tobacco is realms away on the risk scale”
If you really are uncomfortable with this fact, then try to cut back on the processed meats and search for alternatives such as chicken, turkey and fish. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC has commented on the results emphasising the importance of ‘balancing the risks and benefits of eating processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations’. So no, that one bacon butty on a Saturday morning will not kill you.
But do not believe the headlines where they put bacon on a par with cigarettes. For this you will have to understand the classification system. There are four groups as Forbes has explained, 1 being established carcinogens, 2A being ‘probably’ carcinogenic and 2B being ‘possibly’, 3 is unclassified due to lack of data and 4 is non-carcinogenic which is only caprolactam (what your yoga pants are made of). Processed meats have now been classified as a category 1. Don’t panic though, just because something is carcinogenic, it does not mean you will get cancer- otherwise by this rule of thumb you will be surrounding yourself with yoga pants, and only yoga pants. Although there may be a direct correlation between cancer and processed foods or tobacco, it does not mean they have equal risks. Tobacco is realms away on the risk scale.
Who is to say whether we will be seeing graphic pictures on our bacon packets?
But do people still smoke? Yes. So should everyone stop eating processed or red meat? No.
Just remember that balance is key.
Last modified: 9th November 2015