Following the World Health Organization’s recent announcement that processed and red meat can cause cancer, Euronews explores the facts behind the media frenzy.
Sabine Rohrmann is a professor for cancer epidemiology at the University of Zurich, in Switzerland: “Firstly, processed meat contains a lot of iron as does red meat. And iron is an important nutrient, but if absorbed in large amounts it can damage DNA. That is one point, and it’s the same with both red and processed meats. Additionally with processed meats are the processing aids for meat and sausage products, for example nitrite salting mix. This forms so-called N-Nitroso compounds, which especially in combination with iron, can cause DNA damage.”
According to WHO, epidemiological studies show that consumption of 50 grams of processed meat per day increases cancer risk by about 18%. So, should we stop eating red and processed meats?
Sabine Rohrmann: “The fact is of course, that not everyone who is eating sausage with bread every day necessarily develops colon cancer, but neither does everyone who smokes cigarettes get lung cancer. However, what we see is that those people who eat sausage every day have an increased risk of bowel cancer.”
So even if the risk is smaller than the risk from smoking for example, or being overweight, or regularly drinking alcohol, the link of red and processed meats with cancer is certain.