After reviewing more than 800 studies from several continents, a group of 22 scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization, has classified bacon and other processed meats as carcinogens, something that causes cancer. They placed processed meat in the same danger category as smoking. The group also classified red meat as a probable carcinogen.
The researchers evaluated studies about meat and cancer, looking at more than 12 types of cancer in populations with diverse diets over the past 20 years. They defined processed meat as anything transformed to improve its flavor or preserve it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. They defined red meat to include beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat. The group noted in particular the link between processed meat and colon cancer, and the link between red meat and colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancers.
The IARC found that eating 50 grams of processed meat – the equivalent of four strips of bacon – every day increased the risk of cancer from 5% to almost 6%. According to Gunter Kuhnle, a food nutrition scientist at the University of Reading, three cigarettes a day increases the risk of lung cancer 500%.
The report said that grilling, pan-frying, or other high-temperature methods of cooking red meat produce the highest amounts of chemicals suspected of causing cancer, and recommended choosing fish or poultry or cooking red meat at low temperatures.