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Processed Meat and Cancer

Your Paleo Diet May Have a Fatal Side Effect

Bacon-lovers are not going to like this news. World Health Organization (WHO) experts have found that consumption of processed meats can lead to cancer. The International Agency For Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the WHO, has put processed meats like hot dogs and ham in the group 1 list of carcinogens, which includes tobacco, asbestos, and diesel fumes.

The WHO made this decision after convening 22 health experts from around the world, who reviewed 800 studies on meat consumption and cancer. In addition to finding "sufficient evidence" that processed meats cause cancer, the organization classified red meat including beef, lamb, and pork as "probable" carcinogens, putting these meats in the group 2A list, which includes glyphosate, the active ingredient in many weedkillers. Yes, weedkillers! The IARC found links mainly with bowel (colorectal) cancer, but meat consumption was also associated with pancreatic and prostate cancers.

Related: Reasons Not to Eat So Much Red Meat

The IARC cited an estimate that 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributed to diets high in processed meat. That's in contrast to about one million cancer deaths per year due to tobacco smoking, 600,000 a year due to alcohol consumption, and more than 200,000 each year due to air pollution. The WHO said that how much processed meat you consume affects your risk. So how much meat is too much? The experts estimated that eating a daily portion of 50 grams — the equivalent of just two strips of bacon — would increase risk by 18 percent. One hamburger patty is 82 grams.

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Meat consumption is by far not the only risk factor when it comes to cancer — smoking, alcohol consumption, body weight, exercise, and genes also play a role. The North American Meat Institute has argued that categorizing meat on the same carcinogenic level as tobacco "defies common sense." But if eating less processed and red meats can help, then pass the beans and tofu!

Related: Fatty Fish and Other Foods That Help Prevent Breast Cancer

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts
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