World Health Organization Expected to Link Red Meat to Cancer

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World Health Organization Expected to Link Red Meat to Cancer

In October, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)—the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO)—is expected to link red meat to cancer.

The IARC evaluates available evidence on substances and then rates them on a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 is considered “carcinogenic to humans” and 4 is considered “probably not carcinogenic to humans”.

Since red meat has been previously linked to ailments ranging from heart disease to cancer, including colorectal, esophageal, lung, and pancreatic cancers, the IARC recently placed a high priority on determining whether scientific evidence substantiates any real risk in consuming red meat, according to Quartz.

“It’s our 12-alarm fire, because if they determine that red and processed meat causes cancer—and I think that they will—that moniker will stick around for years,” Betsy Booren, vice president for scientific affairs at the North American Meat Institute, said at a recent conference, reports Meatingplace. “It could take decades and billions of dollars to change that,” she added.

While the available evidence does not substantiate a conclusive reason why the consumption of red meat could cause cancer, recent research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that a particular sugar molecule present in high quantities of red meat could, in fact, trigger an inflammatory response in the body that encourages the development of some types of cancer.

The American Cancer Society already recommends that Americans limit their intake of red meat. According to the organization, “[b]ecause of a wealth of studies linking colon cancer to diets high in red meats (beef, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (hot dogs, bologna, etc.), the Society encourages people to eat more vegetables and fish and less red and processed meats.”

The IARC’s expected determination and the research upon which the determination is based, suggests that consumers keep an eye on their red meat consumption.

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Hamburger image via Shuttershock

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