Bacon and other processed meats linked to cancer … again

baconThe WHO (World Health Organization) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is putting the hammer down on bacon and its friends and taking it off the menu. Reports from both of these organizations have linked processed meats to cancer. And the king of processed meats, bacon, is a prime culprit.

But that is nothing new. The WHO presented research last year which concluded that individuals who ate processed meats where at a higher risk level for the development of colorectal cancer. But this new report paints a darker picture for this staple of both British and American breakfast tables. Both the aforementioned, AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), have discovered links between processed meats and the development of lower stomach cancer.

Those links echoed the same links uncovered by the WHO. How closely did the 2015 WHO report and these new AICR-WCRF reports mirror each other? Well, scientists in both reports found identical risk factors down to the gram and percentage for people who eat processed meats being at risk of developing colorectal cancer.

2016 AICR-WCRF: “For every 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of processed meat eaten per day every day (the equivalent of one hot dog), it increases the risk of cancers of the lower stomach by 18%.”

2015 WHO: “Each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%”

Both reports, though, cannot provide the means by which the increase occurs.

So what does all this bad bacon news mean to you? Let’s look at three eating patterns in three different individuals, putting environmental and genetic factors to the side.

Subject 1: is a primary eater of vegetables and never indulges in things like pepperoni or salami, not even hot dogs. But they eat a couple pieces of bacon every month.

Subject 2: is an occasional eater of processed meat like hot dogs and bacon.

Subject 3: had a diet very high in processed meats with sausage and or bacon at every breakfast, fast food or convenience store lunches containing processed meats and self-same meats for dinner.

Subjects 1 and 2 are in fact eating very limited quantities of processed meat, though Subject 2 could eat less. Their risk of developing stomach cancer or colorectal cancer is relatively low.

Subject 3 is at a high risk for developing stomach cancer or colorectal cancer based on the research. Subject 3 is eating far higher than the 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of processed meat eaten per day every day (the equivalent of one hot dog), which according to the studies increases the risk of cancers of the lower stomach by 18%.

So eating bacon is bad for you but how bad? Well, let’s compare it to a few other high-risk behaviors. The Global Disease Buren Project estimates that of all cancer death globally on a yearly basis, 34,000 of those deaths are attributable to diets high in processed meats.

Based on numbers from the Global Disease Burden Project, 1,000,000 individuals a year die from a form of cancer attributable to smoking. Some 6000,000 succumb to illnesses directly related to alcohol consumption, and 200,000 individuals die from exposure to air pollution.

So bacon is not as bad as say smoking, but any change you can make in your lifestyle and eating habits that contributes to a healthier and longer life is usually a good one.

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