5 Foods That Can Cause Cancer

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization (WHO), has come out definitively with a report on cancer-causing processed meats, stating that such meats definitely can cause colorectal cancer. They have also stated that red meat in general “probably” causes cancers such as colon, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

Given that obesity is a risk factor for a number of different cancers, it is helpful to do all you can to decrease your risk.

Below are five foods to avoid, based on the recent report.

Hot Dogs

Hot Dog
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According to the IARC press release, “Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”

Hot dogs are listed as one example of processed meat that can cause cancer. Specifically, the IARC classified processed meat as “carcinogenic [cancer-causing] to humans, based on sufficient evidence in humans that consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”

According to the IARC, a little over the equivalent of one hot dog per day is enough to increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

Beef Jerky

Beef Jerky
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Beef jerky also falls into processed meat group and was listed as a specific example in the IARC press release as a processed meat that can cause cancer.

The IARC press release regarding the recent findings stated that IARC experts “considered more than 800 studies that investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets.”

The IARC Working Group found that “the most influential evidence came from large prospective cohort studies conducted over the past 20 years.”


Nuremberger sausage
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Sausage is another kind of processed meat that was given as an example in the IARC press release as being cancer-causing.

The IARC has stated that “each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.”

The IARC further noted that “the consumption of meat varies greatly between countries, with from a few percent up to 100% of people eating red meat, depending on the country, and somewhat lower proportions eating processed meat.”


Carved glazed ham
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Ham is a processed meat that is not only carcinogenic due to its processed nature but has also been linked to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases because of its very high sodium content.

Other processed deli meats, such as pastrami, salami, pepperoni, and the like, present the same cancer-causing risk.

Corned Beef

A tasty sandwich
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Corned beef was also one of the examples listed by the IARC as a processed meat linked to colorectal cancer.

The IARC further noted that “most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry … or meat byproducts such as blood.”

Other examples of processed meat listed in the IARC press release included canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.


Nagle CM, Wilson LF, Hughes MC, et al. Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to the consumption of red and processed meat. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2015;39:429-33.

Amiano P, Chamosa S, Etxezarreta N, et al. Unprocessed red meat and processed meat consumption and risk of stroke in the Spanish cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Eur J Clin Nutr 2015 Sep 30. [Epub ahead of print]

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