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Processed meat linked to cancer: should you stop eating bacon?

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Bacon lovers will forever remember this day.

The United Nation's reputable International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) broke hearts, and bellies, the world over by warning that processed meats such as sausages, ham and yes, bacon, can cause bowel cancer.

The report also stated that red meat is "probably carcinogenic to humans" as well.

The term "probably" is used because the assumption is based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer.

Despite the scare-mongering headlines across the world, experts have insisted that this study does not mean that you have to stop eating these items.

After all, meat is a good source of key nutrients like zinc, protein and vitamin B12 as well as iron.

"This decision doesn't mean you need to stop eating any red and processed meat," said Cancer Research UK epidemiologist Tim Key.

They key word here is moderation.

He also said: "But if you eat lots of it, you may want to think about cutting down. You could try having fish for your dinner rather than sausages, or choosing to have a bean salad for lunch over a (bacon sandwich).

17 per cent higher risk of developing bowel cancer

The WHO report showed that those who consumed the most processed meat had around a 17 per cent higher risk of developing bowel cancer - compared with those who didn't eat as much.

But don't panic just yet. According to Cancer Research UK, this means that 66 out of 1,000 people who eat the most processed meat can expect to develop bowel cancer.

Experts say that the cancer risk posed by a meaty diet is statistically much lower than other factors like tobacco smoking and air pollution.

About 86 per cent of lung cancer cases are caused by tobacco.

The IARC report “does not mean... that eating bacon is as bad as smoking,” said University of Reading nutrition expert Gunter Kuhnle.

“Processed meat can be part of a healthy lifestyle – smoking can’t”.

Sources: Cancer Research UK, BBC