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Processed meats increase cancer risk: World Health Organisation

Tuesday 27 October, 2015


Balanced diet with more fruit, vegetables, grains, recommended

Eating processed meats – including sausages, bacon and ham – has been found to increase an individual’s risk of cancer by almost a fifth, according to a new study from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The review, by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found that eating 50g of processed meat a day (less than two slices of bacon) increased the chance of developing bowel cancer by 18 per cent. It also indicated that red meat generally is probably carcinogenic to humans.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said that the report showed the importance of being healthy, and eating a balanced diet, to reducing the risk of cancer.

“We know that a third of all cancers can be prevented through eating healthy, being SunSmart, staying physically active, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking part in cancer screening.

“There’s still room for a slice of bacon with breakfast or a sausage at a barbecue – people don’t need to cut these out altogether.

“Lean meat does have health benefits, which should continue to be part of a healthy diet. Balancing this with more fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help protect against cancer.”

Head of Prevention at Cancer Council Victoria Craig Sinclair said that 90 per cent of bowel cancers could be successfully treated when detected early.

“Getting checked is one of the best ways to reduce your bowel cancer risk. All Victorians over 50 receive a bowel cancer screening kit in the mail, and research like this should be a timely reminder to make sure you do the test when it arrives – it could save your life.”

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Victoria, with 3686 people diagnosed in 2014. It’s the second highest cause of cancer death in Victoria, with 1320 people dying from the disease in 2014.

Cancer Council Australia research earlier this month that estimated more than 2600 bowel cancers diagnosed in Australia in 2010 were attributable to processed and red meat consumption.