December 15, 2015
Eating processed meat, such as bacon and hot dogs, and, to a lesser extent, unprocessed red meat, is associated with a higher risk of colon cancer, according to findings from an international group of 22 public health and cancer experts convened by the World Health Organization (Bouvard V et al. Lancet Oncol. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(15)00444-1 [published online October 26, 2015]).
The panel assessed more than 800 epidemiological studies across the globe that looked at the association of cancer with the consumption of red or processed meat. Prospective cohort studies and high-quality population-based case control studies were included in the evaluation. Processed meat referred to meat that has been modified through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes. Red meat included unprocessed beef, pork, veal, horse, goat, or mutton that is usually cooked.
Epidemiological evidence pointed to an association between processed meat consumption and colorectal cancer. A meta-analysis of 10 cohort studies found an 18% increased risk of colorectal cancer for every 50 g of processed meat consumed per day. Population-based case control studies suggested a positive association with stomach cancer as well. The group found consumption of red meat was also positively associated with colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancers, although the evidence was less definitive.