Food

Two major research groups have now released reports linking the consumption of processed meats, including bacon, ham and salami, with an increased risk of cancer.

bacon, cancer risk, processed foods

The first study was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in October 2015, investigating the link between both processed meat and red meat consumption and 15 different types of cancer. Their researchers wrote:

Cancer and red meat: There is limited evidence in human beings for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat.

Cancer and processed meat: There is sufficient evidence in human beings for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of processed meat.”  

Specifically, the study found the connection to exist between the consumption of processed meats and your risk of colorectal cancer, increasing your chances by as much as 18% if you consume 50g of processed meats daily. How much is 50g? It is the equivalent of a single large sized hot-dog, a helping of pastrami or two slices of bacon. Occasional consumption of these meats does not show the same final result.

bacon, cancer risk, processed foods

Kurt Straif, head of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, spoke in a news release, statingFor 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. 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.”

Adding to the concern, a second study was released in 2016 by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) showing a connection between eating processed meats and the risk of developing cancer of the lower stomach.

The results of the new study could not have mirrored the original study closer, with their findings concluding the exact same risk factor, down to the gram and percentage. Having used different analyses and different publications, these similar findings further cement the importance for Americans to be aware of their processed meat consumption!

bacon, cancer risk, processed foods

Dr. Susan Higginbotham, AICR’s Vice President of Research spoke on the similarities of the studies, stating,I think that this just adds more support to the advice we’ve already given to avoid processed meat. It doesn’t change our advice because we already saw this for colon cancer, but it strengthens it. It’s just another way to look at things.”

This, combined with additional concerns with the health consequences of bacon raises a red flag. Americans consume an average of more than 18 pounds of bacon each year! Bacon is extremely high in fat, sodium and cholesterol. Regular consumption can increase your risk of both heart disease and diabetes, among other dangers!

As more organizations begin to draw the connections, we are seeing an increased push to limit processed meat in our diets, especially among children. The WCRF advises people to limit their consumption of bacon, ham and salami to “as little as possible”, and restrict their consumption of red meats, like beef, to no more than 500g each week.