For Immediate Release: August 7, 2008

Contacts: Glen Weldon 202-328-7744 x221

Statement from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR)
Clarifying the Processed Meat-Cancer Link

The American Institute for Cancer Research finds itself and its landmark expert report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, caught in the middle of a furious PR battle between two conflicting interest groups.

The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an anti-meat advocacy organization, is using the AICR report’s conclusions to bolster its campaign to get all processed meats out of U.S. schools. AICR is not affiliated with PCRM or this campaign.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) has responded with a statement that attacks the AICR report by recycling the misleading arguments AMI first made when the AICR report was published in November of last year.

Here’s the science behind all that spin:

The AICR expert report was an international five-year project that involved the work of nine independent teams of researchers, hundreds of peer reviewers, and a panel of 21 world-renowned experts. In preparing this comprehensive, objective and transparent report, evidence from over 7,000 studies on all aspects of cancer risk was reviewed; the report contains the experts’ assessment of the results of this research in a list of ten clear recommendations to lower cancer risk. These recommendations deal with body weight, physical activity and the overall shape of the diet.

The expert panel did not issue a recommendation unless the epidemiological data was clear, consistent and supported by strong laboratory evidence.

Among the panel’s recommendations: limit consumption of red meat to 18 ounces (cooked) per week. But according to the report: “The evidence on processed meat is even more clear-cut than that on red meat, and the data do not show any level of intake that can confidently be shown not to be associated with risk.”

This does not suggest, however, that an occasional hot dog at a ball game, or a slice of ham at Easter, will cause colon cancer. What the evidence does show is that making processed meats an everyday part of the diet, as many Americans do, poses clear and serious risks. That is why AICR now recommends avoiding hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, cold cuts and other processed meats.

The AMI statement contests this recommendation, citing alternate conclusions that were reached by a review of the evidence that was commissioned by AMI. Such an ad hoc literature review, paid for by an interested party and conducted by two scientists alone, lacks the scope, objectivity and rigor of which the AICR expert report is a model.

We at AICR wish the multi-billion-dollar meat industry would take the money it uses to attack the objective conclusions of independent experts and devote it to researching why diets high in processed meats are so consistently associated with troubling increases in colorectal cancer risk. With such efforts, it may prove possible to isolate the particular cause or causes and make processed meats safer.

In the meantime, no amount of meat industry spin can change the fact that the exhaustive AICR report has been embraced by the international scientific and medical community and represents overwhelming scientific consensus.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (; Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (; World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (; and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (

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