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Will eating Processed Meat really give you Cancer?

By Shannon Pierce

Sure, we know that processed meats aren’t great for us. It’s a treat to have a honey ham on the holidays or bacon on the weekends.  Heck, we may even serve our kids hot dogs for dinner. Hot dogs are an all-American staple. But a new study says processed meat, such as those we just talked about, cause cancer.  That’s right. Not “May cause cancer,” but “causes cancer.”

 

The study was done by the World Health Organization. They announced Monday the results of their study,  claiming red meat, such as beef, pork, and lamb “probably causes cancer too.”  Of course, there have been public health recommendations issued to limit red meat intake, or meat as a whole, but the International Agency for Research on Cancer has put their foot down and very clearly stated processed meat causes cancer.

 

Processed meats are now labeled as a “carcinogenic” to humans, specifically causing colorectal and stomach cancer.  Red meats are labeled “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Red meat could be linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer.

 

So what is processed meat? Any meat product that has been cured, salted, fermented, smoked, preserved, or any process to enhance flavor or increase the length of shelf-life through preservation.  The IARC calls out sausage, beef jerky, hams, and hot dogs especially. Deli meats also count. 

 

Researchers from the American Cancer Society and registered dieticians explain that this was a long time coming.  The American Cancer Society and the official United States government dietary guidelines recommended limiting red and processed meat back in 2002. 

 

So how much of these products does it take to increase your risk of cancer?  The IARC reports that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

 

So what are consumers to do with this information? Eat a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, such as fish, seafood, chicken, and turkey. Pair them with veggies and healthy carbs such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and brown rice. Treat these processed foods as a treat from time-to-time, say on the weekend or when you are going out to dinner. If you are a huge red meat lover, limit your steak to just once a week and work from there. Stay active! Healthy activity levels, diet, and exercise can all contribute to preventing cancer.  Your health habits today directly affect the future of your health.   


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