Is your diet a cancer risk?

For years we’ve been told that processed meats may be carcinogenic – i.e. cause cancer – and now we have research that supports this claim.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that bacon, sausages and hot dogs can cause colon cancer and that red meat may also contribute to developing the disease.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has analysed 800 research studies from around the world and found that “sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

In its statement, the organisation said “Each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 per cent.” Processed meats include any product that has been salted, fermented or smoked – so products such as hot dogs, beef jerky, biltong, bacon or canned meat can be considered risky.

Processed meats are now in the same category – one – as tobacco and asbestos for cancer-causing agents.

Unprocessed red meat – beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse or goat – is ranked as category 2A, and is classified as a “probable” carcinogen. While the review found strong evidence red meat had a cancer causing effect, there was not enough evidence to say so definitively.

If you are concerned about how much processed or red meat you have in you diet, you should consult your doctor. For a guide to what you should be eating and how often, you can find out more at

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