Cancer is an emotion evoking disease. We’ve all been touched by it, whether it was ourselves, a family member or a good friend that had it. Even our pets are not immune from its hand of death. Cancer is something we fear because we know so little about why it starts, and that some types can be impossible to cure. Quite frankly, we hate cancer and all the horrible things it does.
That’s probably why it is insulting that news media jump at any chance to run a headline saying, “New Study: (insert some random substance here) Causes Cancer!!!”. They know it catches our attention and brings back many painful feelings, so we read their article or watch their program. But so often, these programs ignore a host of variables, making us feel afraid of things that surround us, without giving us a perspective of risk. It breeds paranoia and stifles true progress in combating this disease.
So when processed meats were singled out this past week in the news, I just shook my head. In case you haven’t heard, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) just classified processed processed meats as a group 1 carcinogen, which means they believe it can cause cancer. While media sources ran headlines screaming about bacon being akin to cigarettes, they also forgot to mention some other IARC group 1 carcinogens such as alcohol, sunlight and air.
You see, just because IARC says it can cause cancer does NOT mean it will cause cancer–it just means it is possible in some way. And even this classification as a group 1 by IARC is sketchy. You see, IARC doesn’t actually do the research to make this determination. They compile other scientist’s research, put it all together and if one person in one place thought they found a link, then they classify it as cancer-causing. Mind you, this is all done in secret, so there’s no knowing what they actually took the time to review and what they passed up on.
Cancer is a complex disease that we need to learn more about. If we spent more time and money on the actually disease, and less time chasing down rabbit holes for the “miracle food/activity/lifestyle” to prevent cancer, we can get closer to actually getting ahead of it. Have a bacon salad with a glass of wine on the patio this evening, soak up some autumn sun, and if you’re worried about cancer donate to the actual research programs. It’ll do more good than reading sensational news stories.
Here are some other columns that talk about this same topic. Take a look at them if you’d like to read more.