Figure 3. Non-linear dose-response meta-analysis of red and processed meats consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer
Source(s): Chan DS, Lau R, Aune D, et al. Red and processed meat and colorectal cancer incidence: meta-analysis of prospective studies. PLoS One 2011; 6: e20456.
This week, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), released a long-overdue monograph1 affirming the link between meat consumption and cancer risk. After reviewing more than 800 studies, the IARC decided to classify processed meat as a known carcinogen (Group 1), and red meat in general as a probable carcinogen (Group 2A). The agency urged public health officials to re-examine their dietary recommendations. Those anticipating the Canadian media to objectively inform the public of the news and start a rational dialogue may have been disappointed.
A news segment by Canada’s national broadcaster interviewed a cattleman who viewed the report as “an attack“ on his industry. The reporter referred to it as an “added hit” to declining beef and pork sales before queuing up a spokesman for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. He urged Canadians to ignore the findings and follow Canada’s Food Guide recommendations, as did the family physician who closed the segment.
Canada’s ‘national newspaper’ fared no better. It published an editorial that was criticised by readers for insulting their intelligence, and a column by its public health reporter that urged readers to ignore the supposedly misleading report – even as it misrepresented its content.