The World Health Organization said Monday that eating processed meat such as sausages and ham causes cancer, while unprocessed red meat may also be carcinogenic.
The WHO’s cancer research unit now classifies processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” based on evidence from hundreds of studies, and linked it specifically to colon, or colorectal, cancer.
The report outlined that simply eating 50 grams of processed meat each day — the equivalent of two slices of ham — can increase the risk of such cancer by 18%. However, the authors say the risks are relatively small to begin with.
The organization defines processed meat as any type of meat that is salted, cured or smoked to enhance its flavor or preserve it. Processed meat generally contains pork or beef, but may also contain poultry.
The WHO now classifies processed meat in the same category as smoking and asbestos, based on its certainty of a link with cancer, but stressed that did not mean they were equally dangerous.
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