World Health Organization to Classify Red Meat as Cancer Risk on Same Level as Smoking

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Red Meat The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to announce that processed red meat is on the same level as smoking when it comes to causing cancer.

The link between red meat and cancer has been known for decades. Previous studies have shown an association between eating red meat, such as steaks and pork chops, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer, such as bowel, breast, and lung cancer. Processed meats, such as salamis, sausages, and bacon, have been singled out for their association with cancer and heart disease.

However, processed red meat has previously only been classified as likely to cause cancer. The WHO is now set to raise this classification to “carcinogenic to humans,” the highest such classification available.

The announcement from the WHO’s International Agency of Cancer Research would be the first of its kind, putting processed red meat in the same category of cancer threats such as smoking, asbestos, and alcohol.

Along with classifying processed meat, the WHO is expected to also add fresh red meat to the list of carcinogens that are harmful towards health. Previously, only processed red meat was considered a cancer threat. The WHO’s new report will place fresh red meat at almost the same level as processed meat.

The new classifications could cause controversy in the farming and food industries, where beef and pork account for a lot of business. Previous classifications from the WHO have resulted in drops in sales.

Previously, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has stated that there is strong evidence that red meat contributes to bowel cancer and raises overall cancer risk. Part of this increased cancer risk is due to preservatives which are used within processed meat, which can create carcinogenic compounds. However, the WHO’s new classification will also label unprocessed red meat as carcinogenic. Previous studies have shown that a compound in red meat may damage the lining of the bowel.

These new classifications are to come after 10 scientists from different nations reviewed the available evidence and literature concerning the link between red meat and cancer. Their conclusion is that processed red meat is in fact carcinogenic and that fresh red meat most likely is also unhealthy.

Previous estimates have blamed processed red meat for roughly three percent of deaths. With these latest classifications, recommendations to avoid eating red meat will likely become more common.

Figures from food-sector industries have already criticized the report as being ridiculous and overblown. The North American Meat Institute claims that the report flew in the face of many studies showing no correlation, and a spokesman went on to call into question the WHO’s classifications, which also include wine, coffee, and grilled food as possibly carcinogenic.

The WHO is set to release the report on Monday, October 26, 2015.

Sources for Today’s Article:
“Bacon, ham and sausages ‘as big a cancer threat as smoking,’ WHO to warn,” The Telegraph web site, October 23, 2015;
Macrae, F., “Bacon, burgers and sausages are a cancer risk, say world health chiefs: Processed meats added to list of substances most likely to cause disease alongside cigarettes and asbestos,” The Daily Mail web site, October 22, 2015;