Study on cancer risk from meat consumption is “unstatistic of the month

Reporting on the study has dramatized the results and created "sausage hysteria" in germany were drawn, researchers from the rhenish-westphalian institute for economic research (RWI) criticized on friday in essen. The international agency for research on cancer, a WHO agency, had warned that daily consumption of 50 grams of processed meat increases the risk of colon cancer by 18 percent.

The researchers explained that the figure only describes the relative risk: it does not mean that, statistically speaking, for every 100 people, 18 more will develop colon cancer. Because the absolute risk of developing colorectal cancer is about five percent. The daily consumption of 50 grams of sausage increases this risk by only one percentage point to six percent. "That sounds a little less dramatic", the scientists wrote. "Relative risks are a proven means of exaggerating the danger and making people fearful."

Only a few media had pointed out the difference between absolute and relative cancer risk, complained economist and RWI vice president thomas K. Bauer, dortmund statistician walter kramer and berlin psychologist gerd gigerenzer. Health risks in food are "turbo generators of headlines". Reports on this are often unobjective. In the case of the WHO study had "the absolute intestine cancer risk clarified and the krebsauslosende effect of sausage in the comparison to other risk factors correctly classified" must be.