America is a nation of meat eaters, with the average person consuming about 100 pounds of red meat each year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. But numerous studies have found that consuming red meat can be dangerous to your health, causing an increased risk for heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes and multiple types of cancers.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made headlines around the world when it announced that processed meats cause cancer. Processed meat includes bacon, salami, bologna, hot dogs, sausages, corned beef, pastrami, canned meat and ham. This category also includes any meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives.
The IARC group of 22 experts from 10 countries found that eating 50 grams of processed meat a day, which is less than two slices of bacon, increases the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Toni Brayer, M.D., an internist with the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation, says IARC confirmed what many scientists and doctors have known for years — that processed meats are essentially carcinogenic.
“The data is as strong as it possibly can be that processed meat creates a higher incidence of cancers, particularly pancreatic, prostate, stomach and colorectal cancers,” Dr. Brayer says. “IARC also said that fresh cuts of red meat probably cause cancer, too.”
Processed meats are now listed in the same carcinogen category as alcoholic beverages, asbestos, arsenic, diesel engine exhaust and cigarettes. However, that does not mean that they are all equally as dangerous or represent the same level of risk, Dr. Brayer notes.
“People who eat 50 grams of processed meat a day have a 1.18 times higher risk of cancer than those who don’t eat meat. Contrast that to smokers, who have a 20 times higher risk of developing cancer than nonsmokers. This is a far greater danger than the 18 percent increased risk for cancer associated with processed meats,” Dr. Brayer says.