The decision to list processed meat among the most cancer-causing substances, alongside arsenic and asbestos, was reported in the Daily Mail on Friday, citing a source from within the WHO.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declined to confirm or deny the veracity of the report. However, it stated it would publish in detail the outcome of its evaluation on the carcinogenicity of red meat and processed meat on October 26 to coincide with a news report in The Lancet Oncology.
The IARC’s evaluation is understood to follow a review by scientists from 10 countries, who analysed all previous research in an approach known as a meta-study. Meta-studies do not represent fresh research based on experimentation.
The UK Department of Health’s scientific advisers recently concluded that red and processed meat ‘probably’ increase the odds of bowel cancer.
But the WHO are believed to have agreed processed meat is ‘carcinogenic to humans’, the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.
Red meat is expected to be one rung below, ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’, according to the Daily Mail report.