A recent study by the World Health Organization has linked the consumption of processed meats like Bacon, sausages and ham alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer. Cured and processed meats now fall in the same category as asbestos, alcohol and tobacco.

This report by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as a group I carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer. It should be noted that bowel cancer claims the lives of thousands of Americans every year. Medically known as colorectal cancer, bowel cancer is described as a general term for cancer which begins in the larger bowel. It can sometimes start in the small bowel but this form of cancer is rare.

Three common symptoms of bowel cancer are blood in the stools, abdominal pain and variance in bowel movement. According to the NHS UK, “blood in stool is linked to haemorrhoids, and a change in what you have eaten.”

In the United States, 9 out of 10 people with bowel cancer are over 60 years old. This study by the WHO in no way attributes all consumption of bacon, sausages and ham all the time to cance. Red meats have been placed in group 2A, which means “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The Guardian reports that, “for an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”

So what happens if you’ve spent a lifetime consuming meat? The WHO relayed some protective strategies against cancer. In an interview with Robert Pickard, a member of the Meat Advisory and emeritus professor of neurobiology at Cardiff University, one of the best ways to prevent cancer is “ smoking cessation, maintenance of normal body weight and avoidance of high alcohol intakes.”

According to Dr. Elizabeth Lund who is an independent consultant in nutritional and gastrointestinal health, “ A much bigger risk factor is obesity and a lack of exercise” and combating cancer with a diet filled with vegetables, fruits and fiber is suggested as one of the best ways to combat colorectal cancer.

To learn more about the WHO study, visit this article by The Guardian here