Health U.N. agency links hot dogs and other processed meat to cancer.

By Angela Charlton, Associated

Health

U.N. agency links hot dogs and other processed meat to cancer.

By Angela Charlton, Associated Press.

Published:11/04/2015.

Word Count:877.

Recommended for:Middle School - High School.

Text Level:12.

PARIS — Bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts are under fire: The World Health Organization threw its global weight behind years of experts' warnings and declared Monday that processed meats raise the risk of colon and stomach cancer and that red meat is probably harmful, too.

Meat producers are angry, vegetarians are feeling vindicated, and cancer experts are welcoming the most comprehensive pronouncement yet on the relation between our modern meat-eating lifestyles and cancer.

The WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, analyzed decades of research and for the first time put processed meats in the same danger category as smoking or asbestos. That doesn't mean salami is as bad as cigarettes, only that there is a confirmed link to cancer. And even then, the risk is small.

The results aren't that shocking in the U.S., where many parents fret over chemicals in cured meats and the American Cancer Society has long cautioned against eating too much steak and deli.

But the U.N. agency's findings could shake up public health attitudes elsewhere, such as European countries where sausages are savored and smoked ham is a national delicacy.

And they could hurt the American meat industry, which is arguing vigorously against linking their products with cancer, contending that the disease involves a number of lifestyle and environmental factors.

While U.S. rates of colon cancer have been declining, it is the No. 2 cancer for women worldwide and No. 3 for men, according to the WHO.

A group of 22 scientists from the IARC evaluated more than 800 studies from several continents about meat and cancer. The studies looked at more than a dozen types of cancer in populations with diverse diets over the past 20 years.

Based on that analysis, the IARC classified processed meat as "carcinogenic to humans," noting links in particular to colon cancer. It said red meat contains some important nutrients, but still labeled it "probably carcinogenic," with links to colon, prostate and pancreatic cancers.