Sun. Jan 17th, 2021

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Scrambled eggs with a side of cancer?

3 min read
By JACOB ATKINSON The International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, announced last month that red meats are a likely carcinogenic for humans and that processed meats can have a noticeably greater risk of cancer.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer, IARC, announced last month that red meats are a likely carcinogenic for humans and that processed meats can have a noticeably greater risk of cancer.

The IARC further stated that certain meats such as bacon and pork could be compared to smoking a cigarette in their recent report. People have responded in either outrage or fear that their favorite part of breakfast may have been slowly giving them cancer for years.

Quickly after headlines broke out across the internet about processed meats causing cancer, rebuttals and expert criticisms rained down on the IARC’s report.

Robert Pickard, Emeritus Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Cardiff highlighted a study in an interview with the Telegraph, “60,000 Britons last year which found similar levels of bowel cancer in vegetarians and meat-eaters.”

In addition to this, the Wall Street Journal spoke of the IARC, saying, “The working group even admits in the same paper that ‘there is limited evidence for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat’ and ‘no clear association was seen in several of the high quality studies.’” The organization clearly did  not have a realistic amount of conclusive evidence to warrant such a specific cancer warning.

After reading about the IARC announcement and subsequent embargo of red-meat that certain people are taking, I had a thought: I legitimately cannot remember a time in my life where there was not a brand new “this everyday product can cause cancer!” tirade going on.

Aside from the medically proven cancer perpetuators such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and radiation, we are left to watch the news make bizarre cancer claims. Cell-phones, microwaves, antiperspirants and most types of food have all been the center of their own large and slightly ridiculous cancer-scare at some point, and it causes me to question, what does not cause cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, “When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place. When cancer develops however, this orderly process breaks down.”

If we consider that cancer is merely a form of cell mutation, the reality of cancer is that it can occur anywhere in the human body. How cancer is caused is the main point of why these scares are so wide spread; other than specific examples such as smoking, exposure to radiation and certain viruses, we are not entirely sure what causes cancer.

Whenever scientists find a correlation between those with cancer and a commonality between them, they will tie that similarity to causing cancer. Cancer is a genetic mutation, and quite possibly the scariest notion of it all is that almost anything could cause that one gene to mutate and develop into a cancerous cell.

When these cancer scares inevitably pop up, society tends to respond in a frantic effort to change their lifestyle or habits in accordance to whatever happens to be causing cancer at that time. We change our diets, spend less time in the sun and use certain natural products to avoid the possibility of being exposed to something, anything that could cause cancer.

We do this without a concrete understanding of what is really going on, and simply trust in the “scientific research” that backs it, only to find out a week later that it was a hoax. Seeing as practically anything we are exposed to on a daily basis could trigger one of our cells to mutate and become a cancerous cell, the all-out effort to adjust to these possibilities seems illogical. We are better off just trying to live a healthy lifestyle in the long run; eating healthy, exercising, eliminating excessive smoking and drinking can all benefit us greatly.

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