Bad news for steak and sausage lovers. Deli meats are carcinogenic, and red meat is “most likely” also, announces the World Health Organization (WHO) in a report published Monday, October 26 in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology and available online (PDF, in English).
the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the WHO, classifies all processed meat products in its group 1, that of substances “carcinogenic to humans”, in the same way as tobacco and asbestos. This does not mean that they are also dangerous, notes the organization.
In this category of processed meat products, we find all meats that are salted, smoked or have undergone any other process that improves their taste or their preservation: charcuterie, therefore, but also canned meats or sauces and meat-based preparations . The “red meat” category includes beef, pork or mutton. It is classified in group 2A, that of products “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
Based on more than 800 studies, the IARC estimates that it has “sufficient evidence that consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer in humans”. A risk of cancer which would increase with the quantity of deli meats consumed. Red meat, on the other hand, escapes this classification because the IARC only has “limited guidance” of its carcinogenicity. According The worldsome data also indicate links between meat and prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Consuming 50 grams of processed meat a day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%, according to the IARC, which cross-checked data from a dozen studies. The daily consumption of 100 grams of red meat could increase this risk by 17%, but the causal link has not been established with certainty.
According to the research group Global Burden of Diseases, 34,000 cancer deaths each year are attributable to a diet rich in deli meats, and 50,000 could be linked to an excessive consumption of red meats.. Figures without comparison, however, with the million annual deaths attributable to tobacco, and 600,000 due to alcohol consumption.
Doctor Christopher Wild, director of the IARC, does not deny the “Nutritional value” red meat, he says. According to him, these results should enable governments and regulatory bodies to “strike a balance between the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat”to make the best possible dietary recommendations.