By Emily Hardy

The 116 things that cause cancer, according to World Health Organization experts


Bacon, burgers and sausages were this week deemed to be as big a cancer threat as cigarettes, according to global health chiefs.

The warning saw processed meat added to the list of items classified as carcinogenic to humans, the Daily Mail reports.

Officials said just 50g of processed meat a day – less than one sausage – increases the risk of bowel cancer by almost a fifth. The report also classified red meat as ‘probably carcinogenic’ – one rank below – but added that it had some nutritional benefits.

Experts are now urging the public to avoid processed meat where possible and to have a bean salad for lunch rather than a BLT.

Processed meat has been preserved, for example by smoking, and includes ham and pate, as well as burgers and mince if they have been preserved using salt or chemical additives. These include preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites – as well as substantial amounts of salt.

Twenty-two experts at the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, from 10 countries, took the decision after reviewing more than 800 studies that investigated the links between red meat and processed meat and various different types of cancer.

The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,’ said Dr Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Programme.

“In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

Dr Christopher Wild, director of IARC added: “These findings further support current public health recommendations to limit intake of meat. At the same time, red meat has nutritional value.

“Therefore, these results are important in enabling governments and international regulatory agencies to conduct risk assessments, in order to balance the risks and benefits of eating red meat and processed meat and to provide the best possible dietary recommendations.”

In light of the news, which has attracted widespread reaction, the IARC has revealed its list of 116 things that can cause cancer.

Here are those things, which are classified alongside processed meat in the IARC’s group one, carcinogenic to humans category – those that definitely cause cancer:

  1. Tobacco smoking
  2. Sunlamps and sunbeds
  3. Aluminium production
  4. Arsenic in drinking water
  5. Auramine production
  6. Boot and shoe manufacture and repair
  7. Chimney sweeping
  8. Coal gasification
  9. Coal tar distillation
  10. Coke (fuel) production
  11. Furniture and cabinet making
  12. Haematite mining (underground) with exposure to radon
  13. Second hand smoke
  14. Iron and steel founding
  15. Isopropanol manufacture (strong-acid process)
  16. Magenta dye manufacturing
  17. Occupational exposure as a painter
  18. Paving and roofing with coal-tar pitch
  19. Rubber industry
  20. Occupational exposure of strong inorganic acid mists containing sulphuric acid
  21. Naturally occurring mixtures of aflatoxins (produced by funghi)
  22. Alcoholic beverages
  23. Areca nut – often chewed with betel leaf
  24. Betel quid without tobacco
  25. Betel quid with tobacco
  26. Coal tar pitches
  27. Coal tars
  28. Indoor emissions from household combustion of coal
  29. Diesel exhaust
  30. Mineral oils, untreated and mildly treated
  31. Phenacetin, a pain and fever reducing drug
  32. Plants containing aristolochic acid (used in Chinese herbal medicine)
  33. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – widely used in electrical equipment in the past, banned in many countries in the 1970s
  34. Chinese-style salted fish
  35. Shale oils
  36. Soots
  37. Smokeless tobacco products
  38. Wood dust
  39. Processed meat
  40. Acetaldehyde
  41. 4-Aminobiphenyl
  42. Aristolochic acids and plants containing them
  43. Asbestos
  44. Arsenic and arsenic compounds
  45. Azathioprine
  46. Benzene
  47. Benzidine
  48. Benzo[a]pyrene
  49. Beryllium and beryllium compounds
  50. Chlornapazine (N,N-Bis(2-chloroethyl)-2-naphthylamine)
  51. Bis(chloromethyl)ether
  52. Chloromethyl methyl ether
  53. 1,3-Butadiene
  54. 1,4-Butanediol dimethanesulfonate (Busulphan, Myleran)
  55. Cadmium and cadmium compounds
  56. Chlorambucil
  57. Methyl-CCNU (1-(2-Chloroethyl)-3-(4-methylcyclohexyl)-1-nitrosourea; Semustine)
  58. Chromium(VI) compounds
  59. Ciclosporin
  60. Contraceptives, hormonal, combined forms (those containing both oestrogen and a progestogen)
  61. Contraceptives, oral, sequential forms of hormonal contraception (a period of oestrogen-only followed by a period of both oestrogen and a progestogen)
  1. Cyclophosphamide
  2. Diethylstilboestrol
  3. Dyes metabolized to benzidine
  4. Epstein-Barr virus
  5. Oestrogens, nonsteroidal
  6. Oestrogens, steroidal
  7. Oestrogen therapy, postmenopausal
  8. Ethanol in alcoholic beverages
  9. Erionite
  10. Ethylene oxide
  11. Etoposide alone and in combination with cisplatin and bleomycin
  12. Formaldehyde
  13. Gallium arsenide
  14. Helicobacter pylori (infection with)
  15. Hepatitis B virus (chronic infection with)
  16. Hepatitis C virus (chronic infection with)
  17. Herbal remedies containing plant species of the genus Aristolochia
  18. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (infection with)
  19. Human papillomavirus type 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 and 66
  20. Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type-I
  21. Melphalan
  22. Methoxsalen (8-Methoxypsoralen) plus ultraviolet A-radiation
  23. 4,4′-methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline) (MOCA)
  24. MOPP and other combined chemotherapy including alkylating agents
  25. Mustard gas (sulphur mustard)
  26. 2-Naphthylamine
  27. Neutron radiation
  28. Nickel compounds
  29. 4-(N-Nitrosomethylamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK)
  30. N-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN)
  31. Opisthorchis viverrini (infection with)
  32. Outdoor air pollution
  33. Particulate matter in outdoor air pollution
  34. Phosphorus-32, as phosphate
  35. Plutonium-239 and its decay products (may contain plutonium-240 and other isotopes), as aerosols
  36. Radioiodines, short-lived isotopes, including iodine-131, from atomic reactor accidents and nuclear weapons detonation (exposure during childhood)
  37. Radionuclides, α-particle-emitting, internally deposited
  38. Radionuclides, β-particle-emitting, internally deposited
  39. Radium-224 and its decay products
  40. Radium-226 and its decay products
  41. Radium-228 and its decay products
  42. Radon-222 and its decay products
  43. Schistosoma haematobium (infection with)
  44. Silica, crystalline (inhaled in the form of quartz or cristobalite from occupational sources)
  45. Solar radiation
  46. Talc containing asbestiform fibres
  47. Tamoxifen
  48. 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin
  49. Thiotepa (1,1′,1′-phosphinothioylidynetrisaziridine)
  50. Thorium-232 and its decay products, administered intravenously as a colloidal dispersion of thorium-232 dioxide
  51. Treosulfan
  52. Ortho-toluidine
  53. Vinyl chloride
  54. Ultraviolet radiation
  55. X-radiation and gamma radiation



This entry was posted in General, Life, Lunchbox

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