WHO Report Links Meat to Cancer: Should You Change Your Diet?

The World Health Organization report was compiled by 22 international experts.

October 26, 2015, 1:20 PM

— -- In news that will land like a thud on the plates of meat eaters, the World Health Organization released a new report today detailing the link between eating meat and cancer.

The WHO report found that processed meats like bacon and ham are probably linked to an increase in colon cancer, while red meat has a less definite but still possible link to colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

The report, compiled by a panel of 22 international experts, mirrors what the American Cancer Society has said previously about cancer and meat, according to ABC News Senior Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.

“I think some of this is the international community catching up with what the American Cancer Society and others here have been saying,” Besser said. “You want to reduce the amount of processed meat that you’re taking in. You want to switch from red meat to fish and poultry and lean forms of meat. When you’re cooking your meat, instead of charcoal grilling, go with broiling, with baking. Those methods will not release some of the chemicals that they think may be released to cancer.”

The North American Meat Institute issued a statement in response to the WHO’s findings, citing “numerous studies” that do not show a correlation.

“Classifying red and processed meat as ‘cancer hazards’ defies both common sense and numerous studies showing no correlation between meat and cancer,” the institute’s statement read, in part.

Besser advises following a plant-based diet wherever possible.

“You don’t have to eliminate, but cut back,” he said of consuming meat.

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