Processed Meat: No Safe Amount

The Physicians Committee

Break Up With Bacon

Processed Meat: No Safe Amount

Many of us grew up with bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, and deli meats. But science shows that these processed meats can cause colorectal cancer. There is no safe amount.

The World Health Organization has determined that processed meat is a major contributor to colorectal cancer, classifying it as “carcinogenic to humans.” The equivalent of just one hot dog or a few strips of bacon consumed daily increases cancer risk by 18 percent. The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AIRC) have also found that “the evidence on processed meat and cancer is clear-cut.”

Children may be at greater risk for colorectal cancer at an earlier age than previous generations. Adults born around 1990 have twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer compared with adults born around 1950, according to a study published by the National Cancer Institute. Because rates are rising in young people, American Cancer Society guidelines now recommend that screening begin at age 45. The guidelines say that high consumption of processed meat and low consumption of fruits, vegetables, and other dietary fiber as risk factors. 

WCRF/AICR recommends “basing our diets around plant foods (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans), which contain fiber and other nutrients, can reduce our risk of cancer.” In fact, eating just three servings of whole grains per day can reduce colorectal cancer risk by 17 percent.

Two of the simplest steps you can take today to protect against colorectal cancer start on your plate: Eliminate processed meat and fill up on a fiber-rich plant-based diet.






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