red meat
Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organisation has declared. Gresei/Shutterstock

The World Health Organization announced Monday that processed meats cause cancer and that red meat probably does, too. The analysis puts processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as tobacco smoking and asbestos.

"Overall, the Working Group classified consumption of processed meat as 'carcinogenic to humans' on the basis of sufficient evidence for colorectal cancer," the report reads. Additionally, "a positive association with the consumption of processed meat was found for stomach cancer. The Working Group classified consumption of red meat as 'probably carcinogenic to humans'."

The report explained that experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. "For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” said Kurt Straif in a WHO statement. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance."

After the WHO statement was released the meat industry protest the classification, arguing that cancer is not caused by specific foods but by several factors.

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