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IARC highlights the link between processed meat and bowel cancer

Updated on November 13, 2015

Facebook is a dangerous tool

From October 26th to today. I open Facebook. I find several more or less ridiculous posts. Please, let me show (and translate, if that's the case) some of them for you, they're hilarious.

Let's launch processed meat to vegans

This event says: "Let's launch processed meat to vegans"
This event says: "Let's launch processed meat to vegans"

Incredible discovery! Who doesn't drink, smoke and eat red meat dies anyway.

Incredible discovery! Who doesn't drink, smoke and eat red meat dies anyway.
Incredible discovery! Who doesn't drink, smoke and eat red meat dies anyway.

I love bacon

New alarm from WHO: pasta with beans makes you fart...

This is pretty rude. It says: "New alarm from WHO: pasta with beans makes you fart".
This is pretty rude. It says: "New alarm from WHO: pasta with beans makes you fart".

We decided to die like this!!!

That says "We decided to die like this!!!"
That says "We decided to die like this!!!"

Not all the sausages cause cancer

Aaaaaand, my favorite one. This guy is Rocco Siffredi, one of the most famous Italian porn actors (predictably).
Aaaaaand, my favorite one. This guy is Rocco Siffredi, one of the most famous Italian porn actors (predictably).

Why do people rise up like this?

Just to be clear, I do realize that the Facebook posts mostly want to be fun, but believe me, I found too many of them. I'll start saying that I've never been a vegetarian, or a vegan. Actually, I can very well enjoy a nice Texan bbq (Austin people, let's talk about Salt Lick, it blows my mind). Now, my omnivorous nature doesn't induce me to be aggressive against vegans. It, above all, doesn't induce me to be angry against the World Health Organization, only because they demonstrated that processed meat is a 'definite cause of bowel cancer'. This is a very precise statement. It doesn't say that you die if you eat red meat. It says, if you read serious articles about it, what people had said for a long time: too much is bad, moderation is the key. And that is true for everything. My question here is: why do people think that, instead, this means that we should all be vegans, and strongly rise up against it? Sure, some of them are just dumb (and quite aggressive, to be honest). They are a mystery to me, as well as those Italian people who destroy friendships over football scores. Trust me, know some of them. Some others read what their friends post and have fun re-posting it without even looking at it. Yet others, however, are not completely stupid, and are just scared because of the terrorism built up by media. For this third category of people, I want to revisit some of the main points of an article that I found illuminating.

The truth about red meat and bowel cancer

I really suggest you to read THIS article. If you don't have time or will to read it all, I'm going to summarize the salient points for you.

  • There is evidence that bowel cancer is common among people who eat red and processed meat. In particular, processed meat is a definite cause of bowel cancer, while red meat is a probable cause.
  • On 1000 persons in the UK, around 61 will develop bowel cancer at some point. Those who eat the least processed meat have a 56 over 1000 probability of developing bowel cancer. Those who eat the most processed meat have a 66 over 1000 probability of developing bowel cancer. Notably, we are talking about processed meat here, not red meat in general.
  • A very interesting point: it doesn't matter if you buy your meat from your butcher or from the supermarket. The actual cause of cancer lies in the N-nitrato compounds, which damage the cells of the bowel and force them to replicate to heal, increasing the probability of creating ill cells. This is only a theory though, there are others. The main point, however, is that the quality of the meat doesn't seem to play a role here.
  • Another interesting point. The fact that processed meat is a definite cause of cancer (thus belong to the group 1 of the IARC taxonomy) doesn't mean that it causes lots of cancer! It just means that IARC is very confident in saying that there is a link between processed meat and bowel cancer. For completeness, red meat instead belongs to the group 2a, therefore is a probable, not definite cause.
  • However, the risk of getting a lung cancer if you smoke is much higher than getting a bowel cancer if you eat processed meat. If you want to take a look at the number, suit yourselves, they are very interesting.

What do all this mean exactly? It means that you should avoid eating TOO MUCH processed and red meat if you want to LOWER the risk of getting a bowel cancer. It doesn't mean that if you won't eat red meat you won't have bowel cancer, and it doesn't mean that if you eat only red meat you'll have bowel cancer for sure. To complete the article, they also recommend a maximum amount of 70 gr of red and processed meat per day. Fair enough.

Yes, this is Salt Lick bbq...

I'm drooling.
I'm drooling. | Source

This is what I want to say to people who post stupid things on Facebook. Having an opinion and living to it is important. I think that I want to hear what scientists have to say. If they say that cutting down the quantity of red meat is good for your health, I'll do it. If you don't want to do it, that's fine as well. I won't certainly post anywhere that I foresee for you a painful death if you eat other than grass. But please, people, READ before posting. Don't drop Rocco Siffredi posts though, they're hilarious :D

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