If you were around the news yesterday, you heard the breathless news that processed meats significantly increase cancer risk, especially colon cancer. PBS initially reported that processed meats were as dangerous as smoking, but backed off under reader criticism. As they should have. Still, expect the usual censors to ratchet up their hectoring against the fondness for red meat that all red-blooded Americans share. You would think, from the media coverage, that colon cancer death rates must be soaring. Um:
Since this study was published in Lancet Oncology (the same family of journals that had to retract the study establishing a link between vaccines and autism), it is worth checking in with CancerResearchUK.com, which puts the actual risk in useful perspective:
[L]et’s be clear: yes, a prolonged high-meat diet isn’t terribly good for you. But a steak, bacon sandwich or sausage bap a few times a week probably isn’t much to worry about. And overall the risks are much lower than for other things linked to cancer – such as smoking. . .
The results showed that those who ate the most processed meat had around a 17 per cent higher risk of developing bowel cancer, compared to those who ate the least.
‘17 per cent’ sounds like a fairly big number – but this is a ‘relative’ risk, so let’s put it into perspective, and convert it to absolute numbers. Remember these are all ball-park figures – everyone’s risk will be different as there are many different factors at play.
We know that, out of every 1000 people in the UK, about 61 will develop bowel cancer at some point in their lives. Those who eat the lowest amount of processed meat are likely to have a lower lifetime risk than the rest of the population (about 56 cases per 1000 low meat-eaters).
If this is correct, the WCRF’s analysis suggests that, among 1000 people who eat the most processed meat, you’d expect 66 to develop bowel cancer at some point in their lives – 10 more than the group who eat the least processed meat.
But sober reporting like is no fun. Still, if you’re worried about marginal increases in risk, just stay safe and stick with steak tartare. And red wine, of course.
More here from Breitbart. And: