Does Eating Bacon Put Your Health at Risk?

Whether or not processed meats cause cancer may depend on your genes

By Malia Jacobson December 14, 2015


This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Seattle magazine.

The World Health Organization’s recent report linking processed meats to cancer broke many a bacon lover’s heart. According to the findings of a 22-member panel, meats such as bacon and sausage are carcinogenic, with strong associations found between processed meats and colorectal cancers in several studies across the globe. But another study, led by a team at Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, offers more information: It turns out that your DNA may determine your risk. 

The Fred Hutch study reviewed 2.7 million genetic variants in 18,000 people from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. For people with a certain genetic variant, 57 percent of those in the sample, eating processed meats did not appear to up the odds of colorectal cancer; for the remaining 43 percent, processed meats were linked to higher cancer rates. Although testing to find out which group you’re in isn’t readily available yet, the study helps pave the way for a day when dietary recommendations—and warnings about cancer—are as personalized as your DNA.


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