The Big Cancer Scare

The Big Cancer Scare

Journalists should not be allowed to comment on scientific news. In the last two days every media outlet, not to mention the social media, was full of scary headlines about processed meat and (to a less extent) red meat causing cancer. Adding after the sensationalist headlines that everything is processed meat – including your favourite bacon and hot dog.

I have two points to make. Or maybe three…

Coming from a butcher “dynasty” I know exactly what processed meat is. But in these articles they are not able to make distinction between a conservation process (like salting, drying, smoking) and the modern industry’s practice of grinding all the byproducts and waste into products where the customer can’t tell what’s in the case, like in the case (pun intended) of hot dog. Of course, the worst results were about “deli” products using ground meat(?), like hot dog. Actually, in most cases it barely contains any meat.

Smoked meat products

Smoked meat products: hock, sausage, bacon…

Next, most people, including journalist and headline-author editors have no idea how to read statistics and how to interpret risk factors presented in percentages. (That’s why they should be banned from talking about things they don’t understand… like causation vs. correlation)

And if you are from the same age group as I am, you know the longer you live, the more opportunity you will have to read at least once about everything that it would cause cancer. And those even luckier to live very long – will hear even the opposite of what they learned decades ago.

Finally, the Canadian Cancer Society posted an explanation to the ubiquitous news. It was something what follows below, simplified for all of us, not experts in medicine and statistics:

Out of 1,000 people 56 will get colon cancer, no matter what they eat. In other words, 56 individuals are at risk. We just never know which 56 out of us one thousand…

If they eat hot dog and stuff like that, the risk will increase and instead of 56 now 66 persons will get colon cancer.

(Just for the sake of comparison, the lifetime risk of prostate cancer is 14%, i.e. 140 out of 1,000!)

With the red meat nobody could really tell, it was more like maybe, eventually, possible, not sure.

Pork shoulder steakes

Red? – Pork shoulder steakes

Now we can go back to our usual diet with first quality natural meat. Enjoy it before hurricane Patricia’s remnants are upon us (here in Southern Ontario)…

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