Report suggests processed & red meats increase cancer risk

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The World Health Organization reviewed over eight hundred studies and released a report Monday morning on a not so surprising cancer risk.
Bacon. A favorite breakfast, burger, any time treat. But Monday the World Health Organization released a report saying processed meats like bacon, along with red meats like beef and pork, can increase your risk for cancer.
Twenty-two experts from ten countries reviewed over eight hundred studies and concluded that:
  • An additional 100 grams of red meat per day raises risk of colorectal cancer by 17%.
  • An additional 50 grams of processed meat daily raises risk by 18%.
  • And 34,000 cancer deaths a year worldwide attribute to diets high in processed meats.
But perhaps the most important take away from this report is… Correlation is not causation.

“This is still just correlation. The exact mechanism of potentially causing cancer is not known, and so with that interplay of each individual person’s risk factor, it’s very hard to determine on an individual basis” says Dr. Sarah Bligh, UnityPoint Clinic Gastroenterologist.

Dr. Bligh says cancer is complex. Causes are a combination of genetic risks, environmental exposures, and other foods one might consume. 
“What is says in general is not even what is your risk of cancer if you consume meat. It says… your risk versus somebody who doesn’t. And so you have a potentially slight increase in your risk. But, that doesn’t mean every person who has this increased risk will get cancer, and it doesn’t mean that those who don’t have this increased risk won’t get cancer. For instance, smoking, many people do smoke and don’t get cancer and other people have gotten lung cancer who’ve never had exposure to smoke” says Dr. Sarah Bligh, UnityPoint Clinic Gastroenterologist.
So what should we take away from this? Moderation. A recommended serving of meat is no more than three ounces in a sitting, a note to keep in mind that sometimes when dining out, you may be served more than that portion,
“In general, what I’d recommend as a physician, with all things, moderation is best. And perhaps, making this a category of food that you consume on a less than daily basis” says Dr. Sarah Bligh, UnityPoint Clinic Gastroenterologist.
Dr. Bligh says she wasn’t surprised by this report this morning, the effects of processed and red meats on cancer has been studied since the 1980’s. 
However, the beef industry has come back and said that cancer is complex and shouldn’t be attributed to any one food.
“There are so many studies that prove that the ten essential nutrients that red meat provides are far superior to any risk that there may be” says Chris Freland, Executive Director of the Iowa Beef Council.
Red meat is a great source of iron and protein… a good reason doctors say, it should be eaten in moderation.

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