Can eating processed meats be as harmful to your body as smoking?
This is only one of the huge claims made by Kip Anderson in his hit documentary, "What the Health." Anderson made this claim after researching a review from the World Health Organization on the link between processed meats and cancer. In 2015 the WHO released a statement indicating that reducing the consumption of processed meats can reduce the rick of colorectal cancer. Meaning that eating processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs, and some lunch meats, does increase the risk of colorectal cancer, but not nearly as much as Anderson suggests.
Yes, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the IARC, put processed meats in the same category of cancer risk as both tobacco smoking and asbestos, but that does not mean that they are equally as dangerous. In fact, according to an article on the American Cancer Society's website, eating processed meat everyday increases your risk for colon cancer by 18%. The overall lifetime risk of someone developing colorectal cancer is approximately 5%, so when you put the numbers in a larger perspective, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases from its normal 5% to 6%. A percentage that is incomparable to tobacco smoking and asbestos.
Health officials have spoken.
The WHO has determined that there is evidence linking processed meats with colorectal cancer, however the risk of developing cancer from eating processed meats is very relative, and already very low. As Colleen Doyle, managing director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society says, "We should be limiting red and processed meat to help reduce colon cancer risk, and possibly, the risk of other cancers. The occasional hot dog or hamburger is okay."