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Does meat really cause cancer?

Meat has long been linked with various health problems like cholesterol, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and more, but whether it also causes cancer was doubtful until now.

Does meat cause cancerRecent study by WHO’s cancer division, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has shown that consumption of meat can cause cancer.

The study, conducted on the carcinogenicity of processed as well as red meat, classified processed meat as carcinogenic (Group 1) and red meat as probably carcinogenic with strong mechanistic evidence. In either case, the type of cancer linked was mainly colorectal cancer or what is more commonly known as bowel cancer. Additionally, red meat was also observed to be associated with pancreatic and prostate cancers.

The IARC Working Group comprised of 22 experts who examined over 800 different studies that linked meat consumption with a dozen odd different types of cancer. Most of these studies were conducted during last 20 years and pertained to people from different countries with diverse diets. As for red meat and processed meat are concerned, there were about 700 studies that contained data on red meat and about 400 studies with data on processed meat

As per the study, if you eat 50 grams of processed meat every day, you increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Processed meat refers to the meat that has been salted, smoked, cured, fermented or processed in any other manner for the purpose of preservation or enhancing its flavor. Items like hot dog, sausage, ham, corned beef, etc. would come under processed meat. It also includes canned meat, meat by-products (e.g. blood) and meat based preparations

Likewise, for red meat, every 100 grams of it consumed every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent. Red meat refers to mammalian muscle meat like beef, pork, mutton, veal, lamb, goat, horse, etc.
Thus, the more meat you eat, more likely you are to develop cancer.
As IARC report has classified processed meat as Group 1 carcinogenic, its consumption now is similar to chewing tobacco or smoking cigarettes. Since IARC is a highly respected organization in the medical community, the report can be considered as the last word on the association between meat and cancer. Further, the report does not come as a surprise since there had been indications in this direction given by several other studies as well. The American Cancer Society has been recommending to limit our intake of meat since as long back as 2002

As per the estimation put forward by Global Burden of Diseases, there are about 34,000 deaths each year worldwide that are caused by cancer associated with the consumption of processed meat. Similarly, cancer caused by red meat diet kills about 50,000 people each year.

Thus, when you are eating meat or meat based products, you are not only killing animals but you are also causing harm to your own health. It’s high time we understand the importance of healthy diet and stick to plant based, vegan good.

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