Meat and cancer: a point of view

Does eating meat induce colorectal cancer? This is the question that was raised by the announce by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published in the scientific journal The Lancet Oncology on the relation between the risk of colorectal cancer and the consumption of red and processed meat (Bouvard et al., 2015). This article is a summary of the main conclusions of the IARC Working Group that convened in Lyon in October 2015. According to IARC classification, this group of experts concluded that processed meat should be classed as “carcinogenic (Group 1)” and red meat as “probably carcinogenic (Group 2A)”. This announce caused a great deal of controversy and of course has many implications for the meat processing and production sectors. The complete report, Monograph N° 114 of IARC, was published in May this year and gives details on all the studies used for this report (IARC, 2018). But how did this group come to this classification? How should we interpret these conclusions? What do the numbers mean? What are the causes? What can the meat sector do? These are questions, and their answers that are addressed in the current paper.