Look out tailgate fans, our favorite foods of hot dogs, sausage, bacon and salami cause cancer. Backed by numerous studies and years of research, the World Health Organization (WHO) reviewed over 800 studies regarding processed meats and deemed them carcinogenic. WHO’s cancer research department classified processed meat or the “meat altered through salting, curing, fermenting or smoking” as a Group 1 Carcinogen. I have included a picture of the different groups of carcinogens but the Group 1 also contains smoking and asbestos. With this ranking, they have pretty conclusive evidence that processed meats are linked to cancer, mainly with colorectal cancer.
WHO used studies that were based on large groups of healthy people and they followed them over time recording their exposures (processed meat) as they go along. These studies were given the most weight. They also used studies that already looked at people that were sick with colon cancer and asked them about their eating habits before getting cancer. The greatest link found between processed meats and cancer were colon cancer, the strongest, and stomach cancer, a weaker link.
With these claims, it would be important for us to change our diets and limit our intake of red and processed meat. If reducing our intake of meat and have healthier dietary options we could reduce our risk of colorectal cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund recommend eating no more than 500 grams of red meat per week. They also recommend eating little to no processed meats. And to put that into scale, a hot dog is 45 grams, so you could eat no more than ten hot dogs worth of meat a week.
They believe that the way meat is cured and smoked can produce cancer-causing mechanisms. When you cure or smoke the meat, nitroso compounds are created which can damage DNA. Also high amounts of iron, found in meats, also increase production of these compounds. Also the way the meat is cooked can increase cancer risks. By cooking meat with high temperatures, like grilling or broilings the meat, aromatic amines are created, which damage the cell. Also, aromatic amines are found in tobacco smoke, a known cancer causing substance.
Why the sudden reason to stop eating meat? It has ben a staple of the human diet for a long time. Age is the biggest reason we haven’t had these problems until now. Our life expectancy is much higher now and we are eating much more meat, which allows us to have more time to develop these cancers.