• Cancer

    Bad News About Bacon: Processed Meats Increase Cancer Risk

four strips of crisp bacon

The World Health Organization (WHO) says processed meats increase your risk for cancer. The organization now lists processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and corned beef in the same warning category as tobacco or asbestos.

"This news is not totally surprising, but it is significant," says Mayo Clinic preventive medicine expert Dr. Donald Hensrud. "Researchers now believe the evidence from these many studies is conclusive enough to classify processed meat as a carcinogen."

The WHO announcement follows an investigation by experts from 10 countries who looked at data from more than 800 studies. The conclusion: Each 50 gram (1.8 ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colon cancer by 18 percent.

Dr. Hensrud says, "It’s important that people realize that the increase in risk for colorectal cancer from consuming processed meat is relatively small, but because many people consume meat, this issue potentially affects a large number of people."

The new report also calls red meat "probably carcinogenic," although it says evidence is limited. It goes on to say, "eating meat has known health benefits."

"It's a good reminder that most of the data out there suggests that a whole foods diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, seems to be the best approach to not only reducing the risk of certain cancers – but to optimizing many other aspects of health as well." says Dr. Brent Bauer with Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

Dr. Hensrud agrees, adding, "people may want to evaluate how much red and processed meat they eat and try and keep their overall dietary pattern as plant-based."