Intended for healthcare professionals


Processed meats are carcinogenic, says new review of evidence

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 26 October 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5729
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1The BMJ

Processed meats such as sausages, bacon, ham, and corned beef have been classified as carcinogenic by the cancer arm of the World Health Organization. They now appear in the same risk group for cancer (group 1) as asbestos, cigarettes, and alcohol.

WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer issued the new ranking after reviewing the evidence and finding that eating processed meats causes colorectal cancer, publishing its findings in a monograph and a summary in Lancet Oncology.1 2 It also found that processed meats were associated with stomach cancer.

The 22 experts who considered the evidence on behalf of the agency concluded that each 50 g portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

Non-processed red meat was classified as probably carcinogenic (group 2A), with limited evidence linking its consumption with colorectal cancer and strong evidence that the breakdown of meat in …

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