Processed Meats Join Tobacco and Asbestos as Top Cancer Risks



Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

Cancer is on the rise, and at a staggering rate. In the United States alone, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015 there will be more than 1.5 million new cancer cases. The same organization estimates that 1 in 3 women and 1 in every 2 men are at a risk of developing cancer at some point in their lives.

Sadly, we continue to discover that diet and food are likely culprits in the rise of cancer.

In October 2015, a team of 22 scientists from ten countries gathered at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), to evaluate the carcinogenicity of the consumption of processed and red meats. Following their evaluation, the Agency placed consuming processed meat, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and bologna, into the same category of cancer causing activities (Group 1) as tobacco smoking and asbestos exposure. Red meat was categorized in the same group as inorganic lead (Group 2A). The full list of compounds and activities with suspected, probable or certain links to cancer can be found here.

  • The WHO group “classified consumption of processed meat as ‘carcinogenic to humans’ on the basis of sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer.” Colorectal cancer is the second most lethal form of cancer in the U.S., causing nearly 50,000 deaths per year. Processed meat was also linked to a higher incidence of stomach cancer.

    Red meat carries a slightly lower risk, the group says, but is still “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Aside from the “strong mechanistic evidence” related to colorectal cancer, the “consumption of red meat was also positively associated with pancreatic and with prostate cancer. –

    The investigation comprised of an assessment of 800 epidemiological studies from across the world, examining the association between 16 types of cancer and the consumption of red and processed meats. One of the studies referenced found that colorectal cancer risk increases by 18% for every 50 grams of processed meat eaten per day, and by 17% for every 100 grams of red meat consumed in a day. The IARC published its final report in the journal Lancet Oncology.

    WHO’s announcement is likely to face strong criticism from the food industry, especially in the United States, which produces over 50 billion pounds of red meat each year. Yet, this new assessment falls in line with previous warnings put forth by others. The World Cancer Research Fund states:

    To reduce your bowel cancer risk, we advise eating no more than 500g (cooked weight) per week of red meat, like beef, pork and lamb, and eating processed meats like ham, bacon and salami as little as possible.

    The American Cancer Society states:

    One key difference between the new [United States] government guidelines and the Society’s is that the USDA guidelines do not recommend limiting red and processed meats. Because of a wealth of studies linking colon cancer to diets high in red meats (beef, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (hot dogs, bologna, etc.), the Society encourages people to eat more vegetables and fish and less red and processed meats.

    Some additional points in the IRAC’s paper include:

    • Cancer risk increases with the amount of meat consumed, hence the heaviest meat eaters have the highest risk.
    • High-temperature cooking methods (such as cooking meat in direct contact with a flame) produce more carcinogenic compounds in meat.
    • Red meat also contains “high biological-value proteins and important micronutrients such as B vitamins, iron and zinc.”
    • Although processed meats are in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco smoking, it does not mean that they are equally dangerous. (See the image below provided by Cancer Research UK)


    The North American Mean Institute states on their website that “bacon is often called the ultimate ‘conversion food’ because it tempts even the strictest vegetarian.” This new study is likely to keep bacon a conversation topic but, for many it might lessen the temptation.

    About the Author

    Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for and Offgrid Outpost, a provider of storable food and emergency kits. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.



    This article (Processed Meats Join Tobacco and Asbestos as Top Cancer Risks) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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