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The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that processed meats like hot dogs, sausage, and bacon are cancer-causing products and should be added to the “carcinogenic to humans” list. This list includes other products such as tobacco and asbestos that have been determined to have “sufficient evidence” of cancer links.
WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said processed meat could cause colorectal cancer, as well as pancreatic and prostate types. Of the other agents on the list red meat has been likened to, asbestos can lead to mesothelioma cancer, an aggressive cancer affecting the membrane lining of the lungs and abdomen, and tobacco can lead to mouth, throat and lung cancer, among others.
According to a 2011 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, Americans eat an estimated 21.7 grams of processed pork each day. Each 1.8 oz. portion of processed meat consumed each day increases your chance of colorectal cancer by 18%.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but the risk increases with the meat consumed,” said Dr. Kurt Straif of the IARC. Asbestos follows a similar pattern. While experts say no amount of exposure is safe, the longer and more intense the exposure, the more likely an individual is to develop mesothelioma cancer or another asbestos disease.
Annually, 34,000 cancer deaths around the globe can be attributed to diets high in processed meat. About 6 million deaths are due to tobacco annually, and, on average, 2,500 people die from mesothelioma annually.
Some researchers believe the new addition of processed meats to IARC’s list may not affect common health recommendations when it comes to diet. If someone has any concern over their diet and the amount of processed meat they’re consuming, it is best to make an appointment with your doctor and share you diet and concerns.