Worldwide Cancer Research Menu

Ban bacon butties?

This week, processed meat hit the headlines after the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) named processed meat like bacon and sausages a carcinogen. Their results were published in The Lancet.

Processed meat like sausages, bacon, ham, pastrami, corned beef, beef jerky, chorizo etc. was most strongly linked to bowel cancer but there was also an association with stomach cancer.  The strongest, but still limited, evidence for an association with red meat was for bowel cancer. There was also an association with pancreatic and prostate cancer.

Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1).  Other members of this group include tobacco smoking and asbestos. However, this does NOT mean that processed meat is as bad for you as smoking or being exposed to asbestos.  It is grouped according to the strength of evidence about something being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.  Red meat was classified only as a ‘probable carcinogen’ due to the insufficient evidence to class it as anything higher.

It is recommended that people only eat red and processed meat in moderation, a few times a week at the most.  Enjoy it as part of a healthy, balanced diet alongside plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.

To ensure more people beat this disease we are currently funding 11 bowel cancer projects around the world.  This includes Dr Louis Vermeulen at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam.  He is trying to help healthy cells win the fight against bowel cancer.  Like other cancers, the beginning of bowel cancer can be a real competition between healthy and potentially cancerous cells.  Dr Vermeulen is trying to swing the advantage towards healthy cells, stopping cancer from getting a foothold.

We are also funding Dr Tracy Putoczki at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia who is trying to understand how bowel cancer progresses and spreads.  She hopes her findings could shine a light on new proteins that could be turned on or off with new drugs.  Ultimately, if such drugs could be developed, it would help improve bowel cancer survival rates for patients and their families in the future.

Whilst we all continue enjoying red and processed meat occasionally, along with other things that increase our risk of cancer, we must keep funding research to beat it.  Worldwide Cancer Research are therefore doing all we can to help ensure fewer lives are cut short by bowel cancer.