Carnivores, is it time to put the pork aside or is this WHO study a load of bull?
Scientists have criticised suggestions that bacon, ham and sausages could pose as big a cancer threat as cigarettes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) will publish a report on Monday on the dangers of eating processed meats.
It is expected to list processed meat as a cancer-causing substance, while fresh red meat is also expected to be regarded as bad for health, the Daily Mail said.
The classifications, by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, are believed to regard processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans”, the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has warned for several years that there is “strong evidence” that consuming a lot of red meat can cause bowel cancer.
It also says there is “strong evidence” that processed meats – even in smaller quantities – increase cancer risk.
Speaking ahead of publication of the findings, UK scientists said it was “inappropriate” to suggest that bacon and sausages could be as dangerous as smoking, in increasing cancer risks.
Dr Ian Johnson, Emeritus Fellow, Institute of Food Research, said: “Although there is epidemiological evidence for a statistically significant association between processed meat consumption and bowel cancer, it is important to emphasise that the size of the effect is relatively small, and the mechanism is poorly defined.
“It is certainly very inappropriate to suggest that any adverse effect of bacon and sausages on the risk of bowel cancer is comparable to the dangers of tobacco smoke, which is loaded with known chemical carcinogens and increases the risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers by around 20 fold.”
Professor Richard Knox, a former Institute of Cancer Research expert, said “most cancer deaths will not be due to bowel cancer and even fewer linked to meat consumption”.
Professor Robert Pickard, Emeritus Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Cardiff, a member of the Meat Advisory Panel, said “Avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer. The top priorities for cancer prevention remain smoking cessation, maintenance of normal body weight and avoidance of high alcohol intakes.”
He highlighted a study of 60,000 Britons last year which found similar levels of bowel cancer in vegetarians and meat-eaters.
“Choosing a meat-free diet is a lifestyle choice – it is not vital for health,” he said. “For the majority of people who currently eat the recommended dietary levels of red meat, which is 70g per day and wish to continue doing so, moderate amounts of red meat can be enjoyed within a healthy balanced diet.”
Read more: telegraph.co.uk