Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 27th 2015 Contents A26
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes
as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organ-
isation (WHO) has said, placing cured and processed
meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol,
arsenic and tobacco.
The report from the WHO s cancer arm, the Inter-
national Agency for Research on Cancer, said there
is enough evidence to rank processed meats as group
1 carcinogens, because of a causal link with bowel
It places red meat in group 2A, as "probably car-
cinogenic to humans." Eating red meat is also linked
to pancreatic and prostate cancer, the IARC says.
The IARC s experts concluded that each 50 gram
portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the
risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent.
"For 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," said Dr Kurt Straif, head
of the IARC monographs programme. "In view of the
large number of people who consume processed meat,
the global impact on cancer incidence is of public
The decision from the IARC, after a year of delib-
erations by international scientists, will be welcomed
by cancer researchers but it triggered an immediate
and furious response from the industry, and the sci-
entists it funds, who rejected any comparison between
cigarettes and meat.
"What we do know is that avoiding red meat in
the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer,"
said Robert Pickard, a member of the Meat Advisory
Panel and emeritus professor of neurobiology at the
University of Cardiff. "The top priorities for cancer
prevention remain smoking cessation, maintenance
of normal body weight and avoidance of high alcohol
But the writing has been on the wall for ham, bacon
and sausages for several years. The World Cancer
Research Fund has long been advising people that
processed meat is a cancer hazard. It advises eating
products such as ham, bacon and salami as little as
possible and having no more than 500g a week of
red meat, including beef, pork and lamb.
Prof Tim Key, Cancer Research UK s epidemiologist
at the University of Oxford, said: "Cancer Research
UK supports IARC s decision that there s strong enough
evidence to classify processed meat as a cause of
cancer, and red meat as a probable cause of cancer.
"We ve known for some time about the probable
link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer,
which is backed by substantial evidence.
"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. You could
try having fish for your dinner rather than sausages,
or choosing to have a bean salad for lunch over a
The statement from the IARC, published as an
article in the journal Lancet Oncology, substantially
toughens the line, especially against processed meat.
But while cancer scientists are concerned about the
risks of eating too much meat, some nutritionists
maintain that the extra risk is relatively small and
that meat has other benefits.
Dr Elizabeth Lund---an independent consultant in
nutritional and gastrointestinal health and a former
research leader at the Institute of Food Research, who
acknowledges she did some work for the meat industry
in 2010---said red meat was linked to about three extra
cases of bowel cancer per 100,000 adults in developed
"A much bigger risk factor is obesity and lack of
exercise," she said. "Overall, I feel that eating meat
once a day combined with plenty of fruit, vegetables
and cereal fibre, plus exercise and weight control, will
allow for a low risk of colorectal cancer and a more
Prof Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at the Institute
The end of the fry-up? Bacon, ham and sausages have similar cancer risks to
smoking, according to the WHO. PHOTO: SARAH LEE/GUARDIAN UK
Processed meats rank alongside
smoking as cancer causes---WHO
of Food Research, also said the effect was small. "It
is certainly very inappropriate to suggest that any
adverse effect of bacon and sausages on the risk of
bowel cancer is comparable to the dangers of tobacco
smoke, which is loaded with known chemical car-
cinogens and increases the risk of lung cancer in cig-
arette smokers by around twentyfold."
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