Processed Meats Might Cause Cancer, says WHO

Content Producer

Our (Read: my) worst fears have been confirmed. Bacon may cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) convened 22 experts from 10 countries who conducted a review on the scientific literature surrounding the link between meat and cancer. They found a possible link with red meat and a more definite link with processed meat.

The Conclusions from WHO:

  • Processed meats can cause cancer.
  • The equivalent of fewer than two slices of bacon per day increases colorectal cancer by 18 percent.
  • Red meat may also cause cancer, although there was limited evidence. (Et tu, filet mignon?) However, there are also some benefits associated with red meat as they are a good source of zinc, iron, and vitamin B12, WHO notes.

What is processed meat?

Processed meat includes bacon (Still crying), sausages and deli meats, to name a few. Basically, it’s meat that has an extended shelf life or specific taste achieved through smoking, curing, or adding salt and preservatives.

Processed meat is now in the same category as smoking and asbestos when it comes to cancer-causing effects. For more clarity on exact level of risk, refer to WHO's tweet:

Q: Does it mean consumption of processed meat is as carcinogenic as tobacco smoking and asbestos?

— WHO (@WHO) October 26, 2015


BRB, having my last wine, meat, and cheese plate right now._

Dr. Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Programme said: “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. In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

So, that is the good news: moderation is key. That occasional side of bacon for brunch should be okay.


When it comes to trying to live a more healthy life, it's important to listen to your body and see which foods are a definite no, which foods are a definite yes, and which foods may be an indulgence for rare occasions.