Cold Cuts & Cancer

After watching What The Health on Netflix, I saw that processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts, could be just as dangerous as smoking cigarettes.  According to the World Health Organization, the experts concluded that each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. The World Health Organization classifies processed meats as a Group One carcinogen, which is in the same category as asbestos and plutonium. Red meat is considered a Group Two carcinogen.

Maybe having an Italian hero isn’t as risky as smoking, but scientists are certain that something in the curing process increases the risk of cancer. Processed meats are defined as meats that are salted, cured, fermented, smoked, or treated to enhance flavor and keep them from spoiling. Some cuts of red meat are high in saturated fat, which is linked to cancer. Also, some of the cooking methods, such as grilling or searing meat at high temperatures can create cancer-causing chemicals in the meat. 

Cancer Risk Breakdown

Overall, the risk of developing cancer due to eating cold cuts is pretty small. For example, the risk that a man will get colorectal cancer during his lifetime is about 4.8%. Now, if we add that 18% risk from eating processed meats, the risk of developing colorectal cancer bumps up to 5.6%. Now, lets compare that to smoking a cigarette. If a person smokes just one cigarette daily, this increases an individual’s risk of developing lung cancer by about 200 to 400%. That's a major difference. 

We should make red meat, as well as processed meats, an occasional treat. Think of these foods as a once in a while meal, not an every day staple. Because everyone has different genetics and family histories, it is hard to say how much is too much. When meat is on the menu, the American Cancer Society recommends baking, broiling, or poaching, rather than frying or charbroiling, to reduce the formation of cancer-causing chemicals during the cooking process.