‘What the Health’ claims that red meat is in the same WHO category as tobacco when it comes to cancer. Have they fooled you with this statement?
First off, cancer has been associated to PROCESSED RED MEAT consumption (bacon, sausages, beef jerky, smoked hams etc) which is not the same as fresh red meat like a sirloin steak. There is still a lack of convincing research that this type of UNPROCESSED meat causes any harm.
Secondly, being in the same WHO category does NOT mean that smoking and processed red meat consumption are equally dangerous when it comes to cancer. It only means that both red meat and tobacco contribute to cancer risk in HUMANS (i.e. Not animals).
If we look at HOW MUCH they increase cancer risk, a smoker has a 1100% increased relative risk of lung cancer while someone who consumes a portion of processed meat daily has a 20% increased relative risk of colon cancer. Another way of looking it is that smoking causes early death in over 50% of smokers, while red meat causes colon cancer in about 1% of regular meat consumers. Victims of colon cancer might even still survive if diagnosed and treated early.
The cancer risk related to meat and meat products. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldw051.