Any moment now, you should be receiving a concerned email from your mom, urging you to cut back on your consumption of processed meats because the WHO is now claiming that bacon and its ilk are basically cancer meat. But—to be fair—it’s delicious cancer meat.

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The Guardian reports that the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has just issued a report suggesting “there is enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens, because of a causal link with bowel cancer.” That doesn’t mean your bacon egg and cheese bagel is 100 percent absolutely going to give you cancer, so much as research suggests eating the stuff increases your lifetime risk. Which should at least be enough to encourage you to only order from the really good breakfast place, not the “it’ll do” spot.

It’s not just sausage and such, either; they also labelled red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” on the basis of research tying it to pancreatic and prostate cancer.

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“We’ve known for some time about the probable link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, which is backed by substantial evidence,” said Tim Key, an Oxford epidemiologist with Cancer Research UK. Doesn’t mean you must forswear ham forever. But choose wisely:

“This decision doesn’t mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat. But if you eat lots of it you may want to think about cutting down. You could try having fish for your dinner rather than sausages, or choosing to have a bean salad for lunch over a BLT.”

The meat biz isn’t happy about this announcement, of course. According to Bloomberg Businessweek:

The North American Meat Institute called it “dramatic and alarmist overreach” in an e-mail to reporters. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association noted that the scientists assembled by the WHO did not agree unanimously on the designation, which was settled by a majority vote.

But of course anybody who was eating processed meats on a daily basis is probably not going to listen to anything the WHO has to say about the matter. (Seriously, don’t eat bacon every day.)


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

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