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Processed Meat

There Is No Safe Amount of Processed Meat

Processed meat—from hot dogs to bacon—increases the risk of colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even early death.

The World Health Organization has determined that processed meat is a major contributor to colorectal cancer, classifying it as “carcinogenic to humans.” 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.”

“Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. Examples of processed meat include hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.”

– World Health Organization

Colorectal cancer isn’t the only cancer risk that comes from consuming processed meat. Eating 50 grams of processed meat daily also increases the risk of prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and overall cancer mortality. And a study of more than 200,000 women found that eating about 20 grams of processed meat each day—less than half the size of a regular hot dog—increased breast cancer risk by 21 percent.

Those who consume the most processed meat also have an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a National Institutes of Health study of more than half a million people. A study published in JAMA found that processed meat consumption was tied to 57,766 deaths from cardiometabolic diseases in 2012.

Dr. Barnard: Processed Meats Cause Colorectal Cancer

Just one hot dog or a few strips of bacon consumed daily increases cancer risk by 18 percent.

Wise Beyond Her Years

Processed meats cause colorectal cancer, and rates are rising among young people.

Kickstart Intensive: A Nutrition Immersion for Your Health

Join Dr. Barnard and Physicians Committee experts in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11-12, and get all the tools you’ll need to kickstart your plant-based diet.