Red Meat and Processed Meat Found Cancerous


Andrew Kim and Kathleen Esfahany

Last week, the media was booming with shocking news – some types of meat were found to be carcinogenic. According to research conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), processed meats such as sausage, bacon, and ham have a direct link to colon cancer. The WHO found that red meats carry a similar risk.

Scientists classify carcinogenic matter in 4 major groups: ” Probably Carcinogenic”, “Possibly Carcinogenic”, Not Classifiable”, and “Probably not carcinogenic”. Well-known carcinogens such as cigarettes, cosmetics, and food additives are placed in Group 1. Researchers involved in the WHO’s meta-analysis concluded that processed meat should be in Group 1, which means that it has a definite link to cancer.

The risk lies in the chemicals that are added to processed meat. Nitrates and nitrites, added in the form of salts to preserve the meat products, form nitrosamines cooked. These nitrosamines are able to damage DNA, and thus are carcinogenic. Reports said that there is not enough evidence to support if cooking meat is the main cause in production of carcinogenic particles. In addition to the nitrosamines, meat contains other carcinogenic particles such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

However, scientists and nutritionists claim that the risk posed by meat is minor when compared to other carcinogenic products, such as tobacco. Although they are placed under the same category, the chance of red meat and processed meat causing cancer is minuscule.

Should we stop eating foods such as hamburgers, steaks, and hot dogs? The answer lies in how much we value our health.