Why oh why did it have to be sausages? Why is it sausages?

This week’s devastating news is the declaration that sausages, bacon, etc cause cancer. Sigh. Why couldn’t it have been cabbage? The news was triggered by a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. There is an interesting blog post on this by Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

In a sense this not really news. It has been known for a while that there is a correlation between eating red and processed meat (like sausages, bacon, etc) and higher levels of bowel cancer. In other words, populations that eat lots of fish but little beef and pork have lower bowel cancer rates than populations that wolf down burgers, sausages, etc. It should be said that although there is a correlation, it is nowhere as strong as with smoking. As someone who loves sausages I am truly thankful for that.

The other difference is that we know that smoke contains a whole bunch of carcinogens — molecules we know cause cancer. So with smoking, as I understand it, we not only have correlation but evidence for cause and effect, i.e., a mechanism for how smoking causes cancer.

We don’t appear to have good evidence for a mechanism for how sausages cause cancer, if they do so directly. The CRUK blog mentions a few speculations but it does appear that they are just speculations. So,at the moment, we don’t know why it is sausages.

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