According to science, bacon and other red meats can give you cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report in October of 2015 placing processed meat in the same category as tobacco and asbestos in regards to how likely a substance is to cause cancer.
The review, which was conducted by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), put processed meat in its “group 1” list (mentioned above). Red meat, including bacon, was placed in group 2A, which is “probably carcinogenic.” This is the IARC’s first formal review of meat. Approximately 800 studies were examined and 22 experts were consulted over the course of the review process.
According to Dr. Kurt Straif of the IARC, “For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.” The IARC estimates that for each 50 gram portion of processed meat an individual consumes, the risk of colorectal cancer increases by 18 percent.
Unsurprisingly, there has been some backlash to the review. The review places processed meat in the same cancer-causing category as tobacco; however, the IARC did not compare the items within the group. This may mislead people into thinking that bacon is equally likely as tobacco to cause cancer, which was not examined in the review. Many suppliers have responded, iterating that meat is an essential part of a healthy diet and provides necessary vitamins and minerals.
According to an estimate from the Global Burden of Disease Project, a diet high in processed meat causes 34,000 deaths due to cancer per year. Compare this to tobacco, which causes one million cancer deaths per year, and alcohol consumption, which causes 600,000 cancer deaths annually.
Tomes of research about the negative effects of red meat consumption exist, but people continue to eat it ravenously. Despite countless documentaries and in-depth news pieces about why humans should not eat meat, people, especially the American population, consume it with vigor and without shame. It will probably take years of research before people begin to adopt the idea that bacon and other processed meats are gravely dangerous to eat.