Eating processed meats such as ham, sausages, bacon and hot dogs can cause cancer, says the World Health Organization, which adds that eating red meat probably does too.
The report, by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluated more than 800 studies from several continents about meat and cancer.
The experts found that eating 50 grams of processed meat, on the daily basis, raised the likelihood of getting cancer of the colon and rectum by 18 percent. As a result, the agency has classified it as «carcinogenic to humans», the same category as cancer-causing agents like asbestos and cigarette smoking.
Processed meats can include hot dogs, sausages, corned beef, dried meat like beef jerky or South African biltong. Meats become processed through several ways including salting, curing, fermentation, smoking «or any process to enhance flavor or improve preservation».
Red meat, meanwhile, was classified by the group as «probably carcinogenic to humans». The evaluation revealed «strong mechanistic evidence supports a carcinogenic effect» for red meat consumption — mainly for colorectal cancer, but also cancer of the pancreas and prostate.
«These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat,» said IARC Director Christopher Wild.
The North American Meat Institute refuted the report saying dozens of studies show no correlation between cancer and meat and that others show the benefits of eating meat to a healthy diet.
«Scientific evidence shows cancer is a complex disease not caused by single foods and that a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle choices are essential to good health,” said Barry Carpenter, NAMI President and CEO.