I complain about the press a lot. Mostly I complain about them being really, really, really bad at their job. But, I have other reasons for hating them. Yesterday, there were headlines all over the internet about processed meats causing cancer. Bacon is as bad as tobacco, they said. I’m not exaggerating, I saw more than one headline saying that processed meat is as bad as cigarettes like this and this. Reading the headlines made it seem pretty terrifying. And, the problem, the reason I hate the press so much, is that these are completely misleading headlines that are designed to scare us.
If someone were to actually look at the information, they would find that eating 50 grams of processed meat a day increases the likelihood of colorectal cancer by 18%. The World Health Organization put it on their list of cancer causers because there is a legitimate rise in a specific kind of cancer with the consumption of at least 50 grams of processed meat a day. But what does that mean? First of all, 50 grams is about the equivalent of two strips of bacon. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t come anywhere near two strips of bacon a day. Second, according to the linked article above, only about 6% of British people get colorectal cancer. And according to the American Cancer Society, it is only about 5% of Americans. That risk is increased by 18% by eating processed meats. That means the likelihood of getting cancer increases by about 1%, if you eat at least two strips of bacon a day.
1% isn’t nothing, but it certainly isn’t worth the doom and gloom headlines. The press is supposed to keep us informed, not mislead us, not scare us. It’s too bad they are so bad at their job that they can’t figure that out.