Bacon is the new smoking, study shows


Bacon and other processed meats are now in the same category of cancer-causing substances as arsenic, tobacco and asbestos, according to new research from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found processed meats, including bacon, ham and sausages, are in the same group of carcinogens as a litany of other dangerous substances, including alcohol, asbestos, mustard gas and diesel exhaust, just to name a few.

Anything listed in Group 1 of carcinogens means “the agent (mixture) is definitely carcinogenic to humans. The exposure circumstance entails exposures that are carcinogenic to humans,” according to the IARC.

The report found that every 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the likelihood colorectal cancer by 18 per cent. For context, two strips of your typical bacon is roughly 60 grams.

Red meat, or beef, pork, lamb and goat, was also included in the study and placed in the Group 2A of carcinogens, meaning that it is “probably carcinogenic” and is linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer.

This is not the first time these meats have been linked to cancer. A 2011 study found red meat increased the risk of bowel cancer by 17 per cent for every 100-grams eaten each day and 50-grams of processed meat eaten per day increased the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent.

Subsequently, the World Cancer Research Fund encourages people to eat no more than 500-grams of red meat each week and little to no processed meats. An average hamburger patty is about 140 grams and one healthy serving of steak is about 85 grams, or three ounces. Under these guidelines, someone could eat just over two hamburgers and two servings of steak each week.

By definition, processed meat is any meat that has been preserved through curring, smoking, salting or by the adding preservatives.

Other notable Group 1 carcinogens:

  • Arsenic
  • Asbestos
  • Contraceptives, hormonal and oral
  • Estrogens
  • Estrogen therapy
  • Ethanol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • HIV
  • HPV
  • Mustard gas
  • Outdoor air pollution
  • Plutonium
  • Solar radiation
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Coal-tars
  • Diesel exhaust
  • Salted fish (Chinese style)
  • Shale oils
  • Tobacco products
  • Wood dust
  • Processed meats
  • Tanning beds
  • Magenta-coloured dyes
  • Secondhand smoke

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Jill Slattery Jill Slattery was born and raised in Vancouver, where she also earned an Arts degree from UBC in English and Creative Writing. She is an avid TV-watcher and a shameless Taylor Swift fangirl. Jill is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. Contact her at

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