WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION DECLARES RED MEAT PROBABLY CARCINOGENIC
Monday, 26 October 2015 16:43
The World Health Organization has concluded that red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans and processed meat is carcinogenic to humans.
In a release issued this morning, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO division, said there is a direct link between eating processed meat and the likelihood of cancer.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” said Kurt Straif, head of the IARC monographs program.
IARC said eating processed meat every day markedly increases the likelihood of cancer.
“Each 50 gram portion of processed meat, eaten daily, increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.”
The IARC working group of 22 experts from 10 countries met in France to review existing scientific studies on meat consumption and cancer.
They looked at 800 epidemiological studies on the association of cancer with red meat or processed meat in multiple countries.
The evidence was particularly strong for a link between meat and colorectal cancer.
“Data on the association of red meat consumption with colorectal cancer were available from 14 cohort studies. Positive associations were seen with high versus low consumption of red meat in half of those studies,” IARC members wrote in a paper published online in Lancet Oncology. “Positive associations of colorectal cancer with consumption of processed meat were reported in 12 of the 18 cohort studies.”
However, IARC experts didn’t have sufficient confidence in the epidemiological studies on red meat and cancer.
“Since no clear association was seen in several of the high quality studies … the working group concluded that there is limited evidence in human beings for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat.”
In addition to epidemiological evidence, the IARC working group also considered laboratory animal studies.
The scientists determined there was “inadequate evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of consumption of red meat and of processed meat.”
IARC said the scientific literature does indicate that red meat can cause lesions in the digestive tract of humans.
“A meta-analysis published in 2013 reported a modest but statistically significant association between consumption of red or processed meat and adenomas (lesions) of the colorectum that was consistent across studies.”
If previous classifications are a guide, the IARC decisions on red meat and processed meat could have an impact on public policy.
In March, IARC classified glyphosate, a herbicide, as probably carcinogenic to humans. Since that time, the French government banned the sale of glyphosate, and garden centres across Europe took the herbicide off their shelves.
In September, the state of California announced that glyphosate would now come with a label saying it causes cancer.