Can processed meat increase the risk of colon cancer, as WHO will claim?

Not the best for your colon?

Not the best for your colon?

The WHO will soon declare that processed meat can increase the risk of colon cancer, according to many papers:

So are they right that there is a connection between processed meat and colon cancer? Yes, probably. I wrote about this in detail seven months ago:

Why Do Meat Eaters Get Colon Cancer More Often?

However, the media frenzy with comparisons to smoking is misguided. Eating plenty of processed meat is associated with about a 20% increased risk of colon cancer. Smoking is associated with a 1,000%+ increased risk of lung cancer, as well as an increased risk of many other cancers. 20% is not 1,000%.

There’s a reason why it took about fifteen minutes to prove the correlation between smoking and lung cancer way back in the 1950s, while the correlation between processed meat and colon cancer is arguably still controversial. The risk increase is just tiny in comparison.

More details and advice in the earlier post: Why Do Meat Eaters Get Colon Cancer More Often?


  1. Pierre
    Just the picture with all the smoke is a warning sign.

    Processed meat is junk and must be avoid for good health.

  2. Martha
    Last time I looked at a label for "hot dogs," I saw it displayed 2 kinds of added sugar. I absolutely believe processed meats like hot dogs contribute to colon cancer via added sugar. Don't eat added sugars. It's that simple: Eat Real Food, which doesn't have added sugar - or labels.
  3. Bob Niland
    The Independent article says `Red meat is also expected to be listed as being “probably carcinogenic to humans”.'

    The question that arises on that is: in the context of what diet?

    If, as another responder here points out, a major problem with most processed meats is the added sugar, then the excess simple carbs in a consensus diet would also provide that for people who just eat "red meat". But the problem could lie elsewhere, such as growth hormones and/or pesticide uptake in the feed of the animals used for "red meat". I doubt that WHO will provide any real insight here.

    What's needed, of course, is outcome data partitioned by diet: primarily net carb intake, but ideally other factors, such specific fat intake (inflammatory PUFAs would be cancer trigger suspects in my book). My bet is that pasture-raised, pasture-finished organic red meat is completely harmless to people on LCHF grain-free low-inflammatory optimized-microbiome diets. I doubt there is any data yet that might shed any light on that conjecture.

    And finally (considering other articles here of late), sugar tax advocates once again need to be cautious of what they wish for. If you get the government(s) to tax one bogey-man food, they get quickly addicted to that cash crack, and start looking for other food substances to tax. They will be mistaken about some of them. Good luck trying to get them to admit the error, much less get any misguided tax repealed.

    Reply: #24
  4. Simon
    I agree with Andreas, I would not consider causation until a 300%+ association was found. Weak statistics...
  5. Zepp
    I think its becuse all the veggies one eat on a barbecue?

    Vegetarians Have Fewer Cancers But Higher Risk Of Colorectal Cancer

    Soo in the future.. let your barbecue be only meat and beer!

    Ofcourse its bogus.. as my sugestion at top!

    There are probably a lot of bad food in the group of "processed meat"!

    Dont even think this is the same as real food!

  6. Eric
    Maybe red meat will go down in price. Maybe not.
    Read the study!
    Pizza fast food processes food classified as red meat!
    What is animal and what is vegetable seed oil or wheat or sugar?
    Junk political science IMO
    Look at the rates state by state, form hypothesis then test.
    Drawing your conclusion then looking for support is not science!
    Look at all cause mortality
  7. smc
    Governmental organizations and their ilk have become so politicized in recent decades that it is difficult to believe anything they are promulgating. Why should the admonitions of WHO -- with their own political agenda -- be any more credible than those of the ADA (American Diabetes Association) ? Humans evolved to eat meat, but contemporary progressives believe that eating meat is morally and environmentally incorrect. I think WHO is just parroting this anti-meat dogma. Show me some hard science: not China study type fraud, not weak correlations, not minor statistical noise, not wishful thinking by the agribusiness lobbyists or the green crowd, and I will take notice.

    "Official" nutritional science is in disrepute, as are other scientific branches. They have been thoroughly corrupted by special interests and government grants. And they have been completely wrong in their advice for decades, causing uncountable deaths, disease and financial burden. Their pronouncements now are not credible on their face.

  8. Apicius
    Oh yes, indeed. We must ignore all obvious clues about our ancestral past diet. Let's ignore all those ancient cave paintings (of our ancesters hunting animals for food) discovered all over Europe and Russia like these:

    And, let us be really genius with all the modern technology at our disposal, and instead of eating all that red meat our unfortunate ancesters were subjected too, let us instead feast on faux processed soy patties, because you know, being a vegetarian and eating processed foods is what is best for the health of all humans. You see, we are much much more intelligent and sophisticated than our underprivileged red meat-eating ancesters. As proof, check out this great example vegetarian product:

    Which is made of these wonderfully healthy ingredients, which are certainly much much healthier than real beef of course:

    gardein™: water, soy protein concentrate*, Canadian wheat protein*, expeller pressed canola oil*, onions, soy protein*, methylcellulose, yeast extract, onion powder, malted barley extract, garlic powder, dehydrated garlic, organic cane sugar, natural flavour (from plant sources), organic ancient grain flour (KAMUT® khorasan wheat, amaranth, millet, quinoa), sea salt, potato starch, spices (contain celery seeds), vinegar, smoke flavour, spice extracts, pea protein, carrot fibre, beetroot fibre, molasses, wheat starch, soy lecithin. vitamins and minerals: dipotassium phosphate, magnesium oxide, niacinamide (B3), ferric orthophosphate, zinc oxide, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), thiamine hydrochloride (B1), riboflavin (B2).

  9. Shannon
    Just eat pork belly! After all, that is where bacon comes from! Slice it thinly and NOM NOM delicious slow cooked and served with eggs for breakfast! You can add all sorts of spices to make it even better than store bought 'crappy carbagge in bacon !' ( Jimmy Moore quote) ie spanish paprika is YUMMY on pork belly! CHEERS
  10. Shannon
    “We can’t reach old age by another man’s road. My habits protect my life, but they would assassinate you.” Mark Twain That is my favourite Twain quote, I think of that when reading The Longevity Project, if you have not read it, it is worth a read. I have added funds to Dr. Aseem Malhotra's project; it would be interesting to compare their Longevity habits etc to the oldest lived among the 80+ year old Stanford University / Terman Study! I think the the last subject died recently, thus ending the study....
  11. Magnus
    Yet another observation? Anyone knows where to read this study(ies) in it's entirety?....
  12. Magnus
    Yet another observation? Anyone knows where to read this study(ies) in it's entirety?....

    If I was to completely burn my broccoli into coal every day and eat it, Im pretty sure this would increase my risk of something terrible... And I could claim that "prosessed broccoli" is unhealthy!? And what everyone would read was "dont eat broccoli"..!! What a load of Nonesense... How about using a bit of common sense?... For example that "coal" really never has been a part of a human diet!!... What about other factors, lifestyles etc.. ? How about a proper study to look at this? Randomised controlled study?

    Good point by Andreas btw... 20% is not 1,000%!

  13. Jkart
    Have not seen the actual numbers used in this study but assume the 20% increase is a typical relative risk ratio favored by those researchers pushing an agenda, not an absolute risk measurement.

    For example, if vegetarians suffered a 1 out of 10,000 cancer diagnosis and the meat-eaters suffered a 1.2 out of 10,000 diagnosis, the relative risk increase would be 20%. In contrast, the true absolute risk increase would be a 0.00002 increase.

    As they say, move along, nothing to see or worry about.

  14. Mart
    The link between the consumption of Animal-Proteins and cancer-risk is CLEARLY and fully evidenced in the largest nutritional study known to man. All you need to do is read 'The Chine Study'. The China Study is a book by T. Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, and his son Thomas M. Campbell II, a physician. So I don't get why people keep saying that there's very little evidence. ... and.... of COURSE there's going to be more correlation between cancer and smoking... That's like comparing drinking muddy water with toilet-cleaner.
    Replies: #15, #16
  15. Murray
    Hey, I wrote down "#14" when I read the post. Do I get a prize?
  16. Bob Niland
    re: The China Study is a book by ...

    ... vegetarian zealots, furthering their agendas, and which doesn't hold up under examination. If you haven't, be sure to see:

  17. Sigrid
    Surely the WHO is also concerned about the dangerous metabolic effects of sugar....?

    WHO's website 10 Facts on Obesity (no.5) WHO states "An increased consumption of highly calorific foods, without an equal increase in physical activity, leads to an unhealthy increase in weight. Decreased levels of physical activity will also result in an energy imbalance and lead to weight gain the incorrect energy balance of more calories in than calories out as the cause of obesity.

    Their warning about processed meat is not up on their website yet, or I could not find it.

    As an aside, is there any RCT that extrapolates risk of diabetes, or heart disease, stroke, alzheimer's, or obesity using a group that eats whole wheat toast, jam,
    low-fat yogurt, and orange juice for breakfast, and another group that is given eggs and butter?

  18. Magnus
    Again, Assosiation does NOT prove Causation!

    However, When it comes to the processed food, the food companies add all kind of rubbish like sugar, trans fats, omega6 rich fatty acids and all kinds of unnatural stuff into their food ta make it taste better, and last longer.. There is absolutely a possibility for this to be an contributing factor for an increased risk of different diseases... For example sugar which we know contributes to a lot of terrible things inside the body like obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and so on...
    But its clearly NOT because of the MEAT itself..

    Regarding red meat, the study doesnt sound very convincing itself..

    "Chance, bias, and confounding could not be ruled out with the same degree of confidence for the data on red meat consumption, since no clear association was seen in several of the high quality studies and residual confounding from other diet and lifestyle risk is difficult to exclude. The Working Group concluded that there is limited evidence in human beings for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat."

  19. Christina
    These are the kinds of arguments doctors made in the 1950's when silly old science was saying cigarettes cause cancer. Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger. - See more at:
  20. Eric
    Since 25 percent of deaths are cancer and 8 percent of these are colorectal then a 2 percent chance with maybe a ten to tweenty percent increase might be more than off set by the benifits of added protein

    On the other hand maybe meat is not an increased risk at all.

  21. Eric
    What is the absolute risk, if any?
    Look at all cause mortality and consider confounders like smoking, drinking etcetera. Orders of imagnitude more than the questionable meat association.
    Some vegans may have ok math skills. Why do they not ever seem to post?

    A 1.1 RR for all cause mortality is what a joke for the math not so swift?

    And how can meat be bad under 55 years old and good over 60. Why do vegans post? To get to the other side?

  22. Eric
    At 19
    Seems to apply to vegans as well as any seemingly less than open minded belief.
    What sect you are clouds the mind.

    Ben Franklin noted even he has some long cherished beliefs he doubted he could change or be objective about. If a higher percentage of vegans die from heroin does that mean vegans cause drug suicide? I f a higher percentage of vegans kill themselves?

  23. Christoph
    I love the last line of the "Mirror" article about it, explains it all I guess:

    "Interestingly IARC has even noted coffee, working as a hair dresser and shift working in the same category as red meat."

  24. chris c
    "The Independent article says `Red meat is also expected to be listed as being “probably carcinogenic to humans”.'

    The question that arises on that is: in the context of what diet?"


    Many meat eaters have an "unhealthy diet" and eat it with the bun and the fries and wash it down with the Coke.

    Many others have a "healthy diet" and eat it with salad and a low fat salad dressing (sugar and Omega 6) followed by a fruit salad with low fat yogurt washed down with orange juice. And home baked bread.

    Apart from a few more micronutrients there's little difference in the metabolic consequences.

    Eating grass-fed meat with Real Vegetables is likely to have a completely different outcome.

    Of course this is all irrelevant because we all became extinct millennia ago from the meat and saturated fat so we aren't actually here . . .

  25. Chris D
    What is interesting is that eventually if you live long enough, you will die from either cancer or heart disease regardless of diet. Associating anything with cancer is completely meaningless if it is not also associated with decreased longevity or wellness. The panic attack articles or the reports state nothing of the sort. Statistically the number one killer of vegans is heart disease followed by cancer, the same as omnivorous. Unfortunately you will never hear about that in the media since it is so inconvenient to their narrative. I guess meat eaters die of heart disease and cancer while vegans die of "natural causes."
  26. Pam J
    Meat that is raised the way our Good Lord intended it to be raised is a wonderful food. For beef, free ranged on non-pesticide treated grass, not in confined animal feedlot operations (CAFO) where the animals are fed pesticide laden grain and antibiotics and never have a day of exercise or fresh air. It is truly cruel to the cattle. When we eat the CAFO beef, of course it isn't healthy for us; it makes us as sick as the cows. Garbage in, garbage out. The same goes for all types of meat when poorly raised. Farmed fish is also unhealthy for us. Our omegas are totally out of balance due to the way our food supply has been manipulated, often for extreme profit. Some of you have referred to some governments pushing their agendas and you are so right! Control the food supply, control the people. Just try to buy the best quality food you can...the way God made it, not big Agriculture.
  27. Toula
    Hmm. I love bacon. Esp my brothers preservative, sugar free and free range bacon. I eat a little daily. Am I in strife?
    Reply: #28
  28. Bjarte Bakke Team Diet Doctor
    You're fine.
  29. Andy
    Since our bodies create and destroy cancer cells regularly, the WHO should have reported that just being alive is carcinogenic! A far better use of their substantial resources would have been more research and insights into the high carb (and therefore high glucose) diets that actually feed cancer cells.
  30. jjasminchang
    We should not trust WHO which is a private organization owned by Bill gates. They are the ones who set the rediculous, illegal human political experiments for the flu called Covid19. Totally profit interested organization that we should not give any credit.

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