Processed meat “does cause cancer”

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Meat market in Hudur, Somalia. UN Photo/Tobin Jones

Eating red meat is "probably" likely to cause cancer, while processed meat is a definite carcinogen, UN health experts announced Monday.

Among the cancer-causing meats are everyday favourites such as sliced ham, sausages and canned meat, according to the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Twenty-two experts from 10 countries who carried out the research concluded that eating 50 grammes of processed meat every day increases the risk of cancer by 18 per cent.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)'s findings announced on Monday come after its experts considered more than 800 studies exploring a link between red and processed meat and cancer.

In the case of processed meat, which includes sliced ham, frankfurters, cured and dried products, the IARC experts declared it "carcinogenic to humans" with each daily 50 gramme portion increasing the risk of cancer by nearly 20 per cent.

Red meat, which includes beef, pork and lamb, is "probably carcinogenic to humans", they said, with colorectal cancer the most commonly related disease.

The UN-led study also confirmed a link between red meat and pancreatic and prostate cancer too.

In a statement, IARC said that in view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, their findings are a valid public health concern.

The agency's director, Dr Christopher Wild, said that the findings support recommendations for people to limit their meat intake.

But he also said that red meat "has nutritional value" and that governments would be able to use the IARC's findings to balance what he called the "risks and benefits" of eating red and processed meat.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1'12"

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