Monday, November 02, 2015

CANCER - Processed Meat Debate

"Study finds that processed meat causes cancer, but how big is the risk?" PBS NewsHour 10/26/2015


SUMMARY:  Eating processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, ham and bacon can cause colorectal cancer, says the World Health Organization.  While the cancer risk in most cases is slight, it does increase with the amount of processed meats consumed, according to the WHO's investigation.  William Brangham learns more from Dr. Jonathan Schoenfeld of Harvard Medical School.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  This new report released today by the World Health Organization found that often-beloved meats, like sausage, bacon, ham, and hot dogs, can cause certain types of cancer.  Prior studies had established similar connections, but the WHO is the most prominent health organization to specifically say processed meats can cause cancer.

It looked at more than 800 studies around the world.  It also found that eating freshly prepared red meat like steak or pork or lamb probably can cause cancer as well.

Here to help us sort through this is Jonathan Schoenfeld.  He is a professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School.  He co-wrote a notable paper for “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2012 about the links between diet and cancer.

Dr. Schoenfeld, thank you for doing this.

The WHO certainly put the scare into meat eaters all over the country today.  How much of this — if I’m someone who has a couple of slices of bacon or a turkey sandwich a few times a week, how worried should I be?

DR. JONATHAN SCHOENFELD, Harvard Medical School:  Sure.

So, I Think it’s important to realize that what the World Health Organization was, like you said, as looked at hundreds of studies and put the evidence from those studies together to show that the consumption of processed or red meats was quite possibly associated with an increased risk of a variety of different types of cancer.

Now, what these studies did was look at the overall risk of cancer.  And so it’s hard to say that any one piece of bacon, for example, or piece of meat would increase your risk of cancer by a certain amount, but, in total, you know, these studies show that being one of the people who consume the most amounts of meats or processed foods could potentially increase your risk of these cancers.

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