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Can red meat cause cancer?

According to international health experts, processed red meat can be as dangerous as some of the known substances that cause cancer, such as asbestos and arsenic. Health experts from World Health Organization (WHO) developed a special list of products which can trigger or cause cancer and red meat was included in the list. They suggested that red meat should be in the list of carcinogens because it is not much safer than bacon, hot dogs, hamburgers and other fast foods.

Some experts estimate approximately 34 000 deaths from cancer worldwide associated with excessive consumption of processed meat. Menu with a high content of red meat is also harmful – approximately 50 000 deaths per year could be connected with regular consumption of red meat. For comparison: smoking takes more than a million lives, and excessive alcohol consumption, about 600 000 lives per year.

Dr Christopher P. Wild, IARC Director

Dr Christopher P. Wild, IARC Director

Scientific findings confirm the need to limit consumption of meat. It is expected that the report containing information about the dangers of red meat, will lead to new regulations that may oblige manufacturers to put warning labels on the packaging and change dietary recommendations for different groups of people.
Christopher Wilde, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, WHO/UN

Can red meat cause cancer?

Can red meat cause cancer?

Health experts noted that not only processed meat but also fresh red meat can probably cause cancer. Hot dogs, sausages and bacon can trigger colorectal cancer. Pork, beef and lamb are recognized as likely carcinogenic types of meat. This conclusion was made by international team of experts after reviewing more than 800 scientific studies performed among population of different countries – these studies were able to demonstrate links between cancer and the consumption of processed or red meat.

Dr. Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Program

Dr. Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Program

Scientists already proved the evidence concerning colorectal cancer and processed meat. In addition, extensive meat consumption may increase the likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer. Even just a daily 50-gram serving of processed meat consumption increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 20%. Actually red meat (pork, beef, lamb) and especially processed meat products can be considered as a direct way to an appointment with the oncologist.
Dr. Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Program

Actually the WHO recognize the processed meat as carcinogenic and confirm the risk from eating processed meat as high as risks from smoking cigarettes and consuming high doses of alcohol. At the same time, red meat has nutritional value. So the situation is pretty complicated, and international regulatory authorities should assess all risks and adjust the recommendations for healthy eating.

All the same, given the nutritional value of meat (high protein, iron and zinc) completely exclude it from the diet is not necessary, especially at a young age, when the body is in a stage of active growth. It is only important to eat meat not too much and not too often. You can successfully replace most red meat (beef, lamb, pork, etc.) by fish and poultry.

The optimal suggestion is to reduce meat consumption, improve the quality of the meat as well as add to the daily diet lots of whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Increased levels of fiber in mentioned products could prevent development of cancer.

Nowadays recommended volume of consumption for red meat and processed meat is not more than 500 grams per week (70 grams per day).

It is impossible to predict all cancer risk factors and to protect from all possible types of cancer. But, at the same time, many cancer risks can be reduced and even eliminated by healthy lifestyle and healthy diet.


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