Some papers are buried deep in journals and get little airtime… this summary paper which appeared in the Lancet generated more discussion on diet and cancer prevention than most things published this year and is the “paper of the year” for consultant colorectal surgeon Miss Susan Moug (Consultant Surgeon, The Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley; Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Glasgow)

Title: Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat.

Authors: International Agency for Research on Cancer (World Health Organisation).


Why is this report important?

This report from the IARC states the relationship of red meat and processed meat to cancer. Although this message is not new, two aspects of this report stood out leading to it being widely reported in the media. First, the report stated that each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by a substantial 18%. Second, this increased risk has lead the agency to categorise processed meats as group 1 carcinogens.   Although several leading cancer groups supported this report, others got too caught up in comparisons with smoking, or, (in the case of journalists) trying to define exactly what ‘processed meat’ means.  Importantly, it got everyone talking about the underlying message about diet and cancer. Indeed it even led one of my surgical colleagues to send me photos of their untouched processed-meat-containing-lunch!