IARC Classifies Processed Meat as Carcinogenic

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) a World Health Organisation agency, has published the conclusions from its evaluation of the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat, such as salted, cured, smoked and fermented meat products.

An IARC Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries reviewed all the accumulated scientific literature on the topic – more than 800 studies – and classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans, based on limited evidence that it causes cancer and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect. Most of the evidence is for colorectal cancer, but associations were also observed for pancreatic and prostate cancers.

Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence in humans that processed meat causes colorectal cancer. The Working Group concluded that each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. According to Dr Kurt Straif, Head of the IARC Monographs Programme, “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”

Read the IARC press release here.