Is Bacon Really Bad for Your Health?

Putting the WHO cancer report in perspective


A new World Health Organization (WHO) study has purportedly found that "processed meat ranks alongside smoking as a major cause of cancer."

According to the WHO report, "each 50g of processed meat a day—the equivalent of one sausage, or less than two slices of bacon—increases the chance of developing bowel cancer by 18 percent. Global health experts listed processed meat as a cancer-causing substance—the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes."

I am sure that, in the coming weeks and months, many scholars will pore over the report and ascertain its robustness.

In the meantime, let's put colon and lung cancers in perspective. Among American men, both reached their peak deadliness in the mid-1980s. They have been declining ever since. Between 1985 and 2010, lung and colon cancer death rates declined by 39 percent and 54 percent respectively. Among American women, lung cancer peaked in 1998 and colon cancer in 1961. Between their peaks and 2010, the two cancers' death rates declined by 15 percent and 53 percent respectively.

Moderation in the consumption of bacon and sausages is probably a good thing, but let's not put the U.S. bacon industry out of business by indulging in America's favorite past time—overreaction.

Human Progress

Explore more data like this at

NEXT: Bernie Sanders is a Socialist Because the Dodgers Left Brooklyn

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’ve seen both CNN and Fox beating the “processed meat is as bad for you as cigarettes” horse pretty hard over the last couple of days. This is willful deceit. There’s no way so many journalists are so stupid they don’t understand very basic math and statistics, right?

    1. There’s no way so many journalists are so stupid they don’t understand very basic math and statistics, right?

      You’re so cute. I wish I had a camera right now.

    2. You are expecting journalists to know statistics better than scientists?

      1. Scientists no longer know statistics. All they know is headlines. As I remember, the study is showing a 16% increase in “risk”. In an epidemiological study, you need 200% before you attain significance, not 16%. As I recall, that is what they got when they finally pointed the finger at smoking and lung cancer, 16% is a rounding error in this kind of study. No one should pay any attention to it.

        1. “In an epidemiological study, you need 200% before you attain significance, not 16%.”


        2. You think scientists write headlines? What are you talking about?

    3. This is just the first volley in the WOB.

      1. Well, someone has to take on “Big Meat”. I know there are a few regular posters who are just itching for it..

        1. I think most people hate it when Big Meat monopolizes the marketplace.

          1. Yeah, that’s some stiff competition.

  2. That’s it, I am done with bacon. Who wants bacon when you can have crispy pork belly?

  3. On a long enough timescale, everything causes cancer.

    1. Exactly what a college food prof pointed out circa 1976 in a food science class I was taking. Nitrosamines in processed meats were the latest fear mongering going on at that time. Eat a hot dog and die!

      With our increasing life expectancy, what do we expect? You now have 75 years of exposure to poential carcinogens instead of just 45. Is it any surprise that cancer rates would rise? If an unfortunate accident doesn’t get you, either a heart attack or cancer most likely will. We can’t live forever.

      Besides, consider the alternative. If those meats were not cured like that, what would the increase in the incidence of listeria, salmonella and botulism be?

  4. Dubious “studies” cause brain cancer.

  5. Four years or so ago eggs were said to be as bad for you as cigarettes and the consumption of whole milk and other full fat dairy products was thought to be almost as dangerous as playing Russian Roulette. I’m getting to be pretty skeptical of all these bullshit dietary scares.

    1. B-b-b-b-b-ut….science!

    2. It was bullshit then, and it’s still bullshit. A little bit of science literacy goes a long way.

  6. Butter is safer than margarine has flip-flopped so many times that I just save my bacon fat and use that for cooking (yummy steaks tonight). Now what?

    1. Fry your eggs in your bacon grease.
      Bacon and eggs the way god intended.

      1. It’s a decent way to do it, but I’ll do you one better. Fry your bacon first, then fry up some hashbrowns to absorb most of the grease. You may need to add some oil to get them to fry right. Then, make eggs in the leftover oil/grease. Finally, toast two pieces of bread in whatever’s left. Final step… assemble into an absolutely bitching breakfast sandwich.

  7. Yes.

  8. I would argue overall eating lots of bacon reduces your likelihood of dying of cancer.

    Since you die of heart disease instead.

    1. Indeed.

      Reason’s numerous articles defending an over-salted, over-fatty, processed food is the over reaction the author should note. No one is taking their bacon away, so it’s hardly an affront to freedom. It’s a suggestion about diet, and avoid one.

      1. *a good one

      2. Jackand Ace|10.27.15 @ 5:13PM|#
        “…It’s a suggestion about diet, and avoid one.”

        You are a lying piece of shit.
        CA nannies are trying to get red meats listed under Prop 65.

      3. Amazingly, you are ignorant about nutrition as you are politics.

        1. I think both you and Sevo are miserable, angry people. However, I would encourage both of you to stay away from too much bacon.

          1. Jackand Ace|10.27.15 @ 6:03PM|#
            “I think both you and Sevo are miserable, angry people.”

            I think you’re an evil and ignorant sack of shit.

            1. Ignorant to be sure, the second assertion not so much. Back in the day we had a saying, if he had a brain he’d be dangerous….Joe certainly qualifies.

          2. No group is more vicious and angry than progressives as your impressive body count well attests to.

    2. Not true either.

    3. The oldest woman in America claims she eats bacon everyday. – Drops keyboard (like a thug)

  9. each 50g of processed meat a day “a day”??? How about “per day”.

    So, a few slices of bacon on Sunday morning, and a bit of pepperoni on the Saturday night pizza is not going to kill me. Oh goodie, because that is what the headlines make it sound like – too bad the fearmongers didn’t start with that part.

  10. God created a world of violence and horror when he created carnivores and herbivores. Why couldn’t he just create all life that could live of the air and oxygen we breath?

    1. Biljay you Ignernt Slut,

      Obliviously, ye Ignernt Sluttishness haz NEVAH hear of breatharians? STUDY UP, ye ignernt one!

  11. Touch my bacon and I will touch your heart blood.

  12. Hear that?

    That’s the sound of me opening a pack of bacon.

  13. Bacon is proof god loves us and wants us to be happy

  14. Bacon is proof god loves us and wants us to be happy

    1. ^ This much truth has to be repeated.

      1. Yeah man, and ditto for booze and weed and wild members of yer favorite sex, or gerbils or what have ye…

  15. that bacon in the picture looks amazing! Where can it get some just like that?

    1. According to sevo, not in California.

      1. Jackand Ace|10.27.15 @ 5:31PM|#
        “According to sevo, not in California.”
        Can you post without lying, oh bag of shit?

        1. I think the answer is no…..

  16. mmmm bacon om nom nom.

  17. Is Bacon Really Bad for Your Health?

    No!!! That’s just a bunch of liberal crap like smoking and guns.

    1. Be very careful around smoking guns.

  18. Lung cancer has declined, at least partly, because far fewer people smoke. It would be good to see whether the decline in colon cancer at least correlates to a reduced consumption of processed meat. I rather doubt it, given that so many “scientists” are more interested in pushing their pet political causes than in actual valid science.

    1. I think you are safe with practically any cut of beef or pork.

      It’s the processed stuff that’s killing us.

      1. This version of Alice has to be new, the writing style is different…..sad beard?

  19. Some of the first critical assessment is starting to trickle out. Apparently this case was unusual in that there wasn’t a total consensus on the declaration.…..l?mode=jqm

    1. 404.

    2. Science doesn’t have to be consensual if it’s settled.

  20. I’ll give up processed meat but I’m keeping the bacon. WTF is this article about and what a shit graph.

  21. i believe in the ron swanson theory of bacon….it’s good for every meal, and there’s never enough of it.

  22. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go? to tech tab for work detail,,,,,,,


  23. Among American men, both reached their peak deadliness in the mid-1980s.

    Obviously, another area where women are severely discriminated against: the patriarchy is denying them equal access to colon and lung cancer!

  24. Time for breakfast.

    I think I’ll have bacon and eggs.

    Unfortunately, this is the last of my homemade bacon, so I’ll be dry until the supermarket carries pork belly again (Japanese “bacon” is an insult to the name).

  25. Here’s the deal. I grow really, really good tomatoes (Park’s “Whopper” variety) in my garden out back. I put the seedlings in a Wall-O-Water on May 1 to avoid the frosts that frequently hit Bozeman, Montana through the Spring. Then, sitting in a sheltered corner receiving direct as well as reflected sunlight, the tomatoes prosper, ripen, and are ready for harvesting beginning in late August and continuing through until Halloween, after which a hard frost ends the season.

    I just cannot give up my BLT binging that occurs during this time of the year. I slice the tomatoes about a half inch thick, place them — like bricks in mortar — on the mayo slathered sandwich bread. Yum, yum, yum! I cook the bacon between paper towels in the microwave. This is NOT what I want to hear about bacon, I’m sorry ?. I just love the BLTs and will do without bacon for the remainder of the year. I promise! Forgive me!

    1. I also grow tomatoes. Try a tomatoe, avocado, lettuce, piece of cheese sandwich with dressing of your choice. Just as good

      1. Fuck off, bitch, a CLT does not compare to a BLT. Quit lying asshole.

  26. Mmm, tasty tasty minimally cancerous delicious meats.

  27. According to the Periodic Table of Meat:

    “Bacon is the meat of life”
    “Without bacon, life on earth, as we know it, could not exist.”

  28. Just remember if we give up bacon the terrorist really have won. Maybe we should build a huge government beauracracy that will protect us from giving up bacon!

    1. Obumbles should hand over his Peace Prize…this woman deserves it.

  29. 1. link to the WHO report?

    2. WHO Q&A: :the WHO is not conducting the research. Rather, experts evaluated existing peer-reviewed literature on the subject. A quick google-scholar search gives you a bunch of articles on this topic. This is not a report based on a single study but a body of research.

    3. Looking at cancer death rates over time doesn’t reveal anything relevant. There’s a bunch of potentially contributing factors like exponentially improved treatments since the 1980’s that prolong life. Just because less people are dying of those cancers doesn’t mean less people are getting cancer or that bacon consumption is/isn’t impactful. The CDC and NIH sites are great for these stats, though you can probably find from NGOs too. According to NIH the incidence of cancer doesn’t look to have changed much since 1992.

    4. “Moderation in the consumption of bacon and sausages is probably a good thing”? Come on man… That whole, “everything is good in moderation” concept is absurd if you think about it for more than a second.

    5. There will always be few people who smoke & eat bacon with sides of lead paint chips without adverse effects. But they’re saying is that if you choose to do these things, your risk / probability of dropping dead increases, and the probability that you’ll be an autonomous, healthy old person decreases. So munch away…but cross your fingers.

    1. Fuck off, nanny poo. Get your stinking hands off my bacon, most people have common sense unlike civil service minions like you that suck gov cock for a living.

  30. I wouldn’t dare touch your bacon, Mr. Log Chipper, lest the WHO is correct and I deprive nature from filtering you slowly, painfully, addled with tumors and clutching your bacon for dear life from the population.

    Additionally, I do resent that last accusation. But you’re right. You see that my lack of bacon consumption has made me exceptionally frail, feebleminded, and susceptible to the corrupting and conformity inducing trance-powers of the man.

    1. One more thing, Mr. Log Chipper-

      (1) Neither I nor the WHO report said anything about controlling anyone’s bacon supply or consumption.

      (2) You might want to consider why in part the bacon you cherish is so cheap and ubiquitous… I daresay… agricultural subsidies! From the government!

      Take that, meanie.

  31. “The studies don’t say anything about restricting the availability of salt soft drinks processed meats!”

    ~Liberal Shithead

    1. Where the heck is Bloomberg?

  32. I’ll say what I said on the “Red Meat” article –

    Is anyone surprised at all that something wonderful and delicious, and that which Progressives hate, “causes” cancer?

    They already say playing outside too much causes cancer.

    Of course, this means we need all kinds of new rules and taxes.

    1. “Of course, this means we need all kinds of new rules and taxes.”

      The “Stossel effect”!

      Fear mongering is government’s best freind.

  33. The problems is that the studies that the WHO relied on are JUNK science. None of those studies were controlled studies where populations of people were fed specific diets and followed over time. Instead, these studies rely on self reporting and correlation. A = B is observed, and B = C is observed, and A = C is concluded. But this simplifies very complex biology, so it doesn’t factor D, E, or F. What else did these people eat? What was their income level? Do people who do not eat bacon get more colonoscopies? Do they get more vitamin D? Do they take aspirin?

    Also, there was a recent paper that highlighted the problem of self-reporting on diet. Most of the information collected is wrong. Bad data in gives bad conclusions out.

    That is why the conclusions from most diet based studies are worthless. Do eggs cause heart-attacks? Not long ago that was the common understanding.

    Fifteen years ago nutritionists were saying that a low carbohydrate diet would kill you. Now the consensus is that a low carbohydrate diet is better than a low fat diet for specific lipid parameters and weight loss.

    I will continue to eat bacon and other processed meat when I wish, and I know that it is unlikely to have a major impact on my health.

  34. So….who stands to make a shit ton of money from this report?

    1. Big Celery

    2. I was thinking about this, and racketeering seems most likely. Some poor Processed Meats lobbyist failed to sufficiently grease the correct palms, and now an example will be made.

  35. Cooked meat contains carcinogenic heterocyclic amines. Grilled meat contains carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. All meat contains carcinogenic bacterial endotoxins that remain no matter how the meat is cooked. All meat produces secondary bile acids that alter gut bacteria that end up producing carcinogenic compounds. All meat and dairy raise IGF-1 levels, which is key to virtually all types of cancers. Only vegans have normal IGF-1 levels, so eating a vegetarian diet will not make much of a difference. Only animal based proteins have been shown to significantly raise IGF-1 levels, while plant proteins have no significant effect.

    Further, dairy is loaded with the protein casein, which is highly carcinogenic. Meat and dairy are also extremely high in sulfur containing amino acids, which not only promote cancer growth, but also make people’s body odor far worse than it need be. Oh, and the heme iron found in meat has also been linked to cancer.

    I could go on listing the carcinogenic qualities of meat and dairy for hours. I haven’t even touched on the use of Zeranol or other potent carcinogenic growth hormones used in the meat industry. There have been hundreds of studies done that show a link between meat consumption and many different kinds of cancer, not just colon cancer. Eating meat really is no different than smoking. If anyone wants to challenge me, I have a few dozen studies sitting in front of me that I’m ready to cite from.

    1. Wrong. Meat is the only substance that humans can live on without supplements. We are genetically evolved to eat meat.

      The WHO study simply classifies different substances, and not on risk. Smoking raises your cancer risk by 2500%. Who give a sh!t if bacon raises colon cancer risk by 18%. You are an idiot if you equate eating meat with smoking.

      1. You can live on potatoes alone. The contain a complete protein and vitamin profile. B12 comes from bacteria in the ground, so unwashed potatoes contain plenty of that. D comes from sunlight. Potatoes contain all the other vitamins necessary for life, although they are low in A and E.

        On the other hand, beef contains no A, no C, low E, low K, and low Folate. It also comes packed with saturated fat, endotoxins, carcinogenic hormones, artery clogging cholesterol, and it depletes bone calcium because it raises the acid level of the blood stream so the body has to utilize calcium to buffer the acid increase.

        1. I like potatoes.

          But, if I lived on them, I’d also die from them. @ 150 or so calories apiece, and five or ten of them per day, I’d be gaining weight.

          Besides, my baked potatoes are extra yummy with butter, sour cream, BACON and chives!

          1. The average male can absorb 500 grams of carbs per day before saturating their glycogen storage to the point where the body begins to engage in de novo lipogenesis (create fat from carbs). 1 medium potato contains 37 grams of carbs with 163 calories. So you could eat 13.5 potatoes per day and not gain an ounce of fat. That comes out to 2200 calories total. If you exercise, you can consume far more without gaining fat because your body will deplete your glycogen stores allowing you to eat more before it starts storing the excess as fat.

            It’s pretty amazing that the average caloric need for a 5’10” 160 lbs male who is somewhat active is around 2200 calories per day, and the humble potato is naturally balanced almost precisely to meet this caloric need while keeping glycogen stores topped off without going over. What do you think the odds of that are?

          2. So let’s look at eating a diet of nothing but lean beef, using top loin as an example.

            Top loin contains 0 carbohydrates, so the body will be running entirely on empty glycogen stores, meaning it must engage in ketosis to generate its energy. Top loin contains 48 calories per ounce, so the same man would need to eat 46 ounces of steak per day to meet his caloric needs. That comes out to 644 mg of cholesterol and 23 g of saturated fat. That’s almost four times the amount science has shown to induce atherosclerosis.

            The body is also facing a struggle just to keep running. The ketosis raises acid levels in the blood stream which causes the body to buffer that acid buildup by pulling calcium from the bones. Because of this, eventually a long term diet of ketosis will cause substantial bone loss, which is exactly what we see happen in long term clinical ketogenic diets. This excess calcium in the blood could also lead to kidney stones, along with all the other bad things I initially listed, like cancer and heart disease. Further, the lack of A, C, E, K and folate can lead to a host of nutrient deficiency problems ranging from scurvy to anemia.

          3. An interesting factoid, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was the Inspector General of Health Science under Napoleon. He was imprisoned by the Prussians during the seven years war. During his time in prison, he survived exclusively on potatoes and water. After his release, he became a huge advocate for the nutritional benefits of potatoes.

  36. Bacon is dangerous! Our press is very selective. When the same organization said that AIDS was not a threat to heterosexuals in the West and the campaigns aimed at straights was money down the toilet the press decided not to report that. Today in Illinois, millions are given to religious groups to scare kids about AIDS and urge abstinence. Waste of money, but for whatever reason, that report by the World Health Organization was not reported to Americans. So why does our press believe them on bacon but not believe them on AIDS? Good question, isn’t it?…..42478.html

  37. Nice Biology truth bomb!

    It seems like most people commenting on this have a “No! don’t “take” my bacon away!” mentality. And I’ll concede without reservation that legislation in the past has been used to restrict the consumption of some foods.

    However, there’s certainly a distinction to be made between research that says, “Here’s what we found given a certain setup and a certain set of contingencies” and legislation that then says, “Therefore, you must behave this way”.

    If someone truly values choice in all things, then it is completely irrational to reject new information when making that choice and foolish to not distinguish between scientific publication (which doesn’t force anyone to do anything) and legislation (which would). It is profoundly irrational to discard new information as entirely bogus just because it doesn’t suit what we “believe” reality to be. If you want to actually read the scientific literature and THEN decide to eat bacon in spite of it, that’s all well and dandy. But if you simply write off all research that challenges your lifestyle as being part of a vast liberal conspiracy to pigeonhole you into a cardboard crunching, basil munching, godless existence, then you become the justification used by The Man to treat us like children.

    1. That was a reply to Michael Suede, btw.

      1. Thanks. Glad to see there are still some intelligent people on these boards. If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out these annual summaries of nutrition science lectures by Dr. Michael Greger:

    2. So, we can assume you are vegan?

      1. Does it make my argument more or less compelling if I said yes or no? But Danske called it- Big Celery Lobbyist in cahoots with the Man to pillage the nation’s bacon stockpiles.

        …I just like information and advocate sponging it all in and, as objectively as possible, judging for one’s self what to do with it. Doesn’t have to be about bacon safety…it could be about anything.

  38. Since bacon is so dangerous and I am a humanitarian kind of guy. I offer to take all your bacon off your hands.

  39. It is widely known that processed meat ranks alongside smoking as a major cause of cancer. That is what the Venus Factor Diet Program explain in details.

  40. Processed meat can be a cause of Prostate cancer which will create pain for young people who would like to enjoy their sexual life, therefore, they should refrain from all kind of processed meat.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.