Processed meat linked to cancer? Don’t panic, expert says


by Megan McCook

Oct 29, 2015

Processed meat has been linked to a higher risk for colon cancer, a new World Health Organization (WHO) report finds. The organization designated processed meats like hot dogs, bacon and sausage into the Group 1 category alongside other carcinogenic substances like cigarettes, arsenic, alcohol and asbestos.

Although the WHO classifies processed meats in the highest risk category, alongside smoking, this doesn’t mean bacon is as dangerous as a cigarette. To cut through the fat and weigh in on the worldwide conversation is Bradley Jones, MD, an internal medicine specialist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Irving.

“In general, the average population has about six in 100 people who will get colon cancer,” Dr. Jones said. “If you eat two slices of bacon every day of your life, 7 out of 100 people will get colon cancer.”

The risk is relatively small, Dr. Jones said.

The key lies in moderation.

“Don’t feed your kids hot dogs or bacon every day,” Dr. Jones said. “Try to back off on it—even us. If we want to have bacon, have it on a weekend or on Sunday morning if that’s your special treat, but don’t eat it every day.”

The slight increase in risk should not cause panic, Dr. Jones said.

“Although processed meat is in the same class as smoking, smoking increases lung cancer twenty times; whereas, this is going up one extra case per hundred people.”

Dr. Jones recommends not cutting out meat completely, but incorporating alternatives into the diet, like fish, turkey, chicken and fresher meats.

Moral of the story? Keep perspective when discussing cancer causes. Processed and red meat just joined the 478 other things that might give you cancer.

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