Eating processed meats like sausage and bacon, and red meats like steak and ground beef, may increase your risk for colorectal cancer and possibly a few other cancers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In October 2015, the WHO reported that they reviewed more than 800 studies and found that eating more than 100 grams — roughly one steak the size of a deck of cards — of red meat per day was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer.
The report also found that people who eat more than 50 grams, or about two pieces of bacon, of processed meat per day increased their colorectal cancer risk by 18 percent.
Beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat are all classified as red meat in the report. Processed meats describe meats that have gone through preservation or flavoring processes like salting, curing, fermentation and smoking.
Other research has revealed links between eating red meats and increased risks of pancreatic, advanced prostate and stomach cancers. WHO experts said more research is needed to fully understand these associations.
Conclusive evidence shows processed meats do in fact up our risk for colorectal cancer, and more research is needed to understand the link between processed meat and stomach cancers. The evidence that processed meats may increase colorectal cancer risk is stronger than the evidence showing red meat may increase colorectal cancer risk.
The bottom line: practice moderation
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends people consume no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week, and avoid processed meats altogether. The American Cancer Society says people should limit their red meat intake — opting for fish, chicken and vegetable options instead.
The most important takeaway: moderation is key.
If you’re looking for an easy way to skip meat once a week, try the “Meatless Monday” movement which encourages people to eat nutritious, vegetarian or vegan foods each Monday. It’s a simple way to incorporate healthy plant-based proteins and up your intake of veggies, whole grains and fruit.