Processed meats cause cancer?

An amazing amount of misinformation in media headlines today. To clear things up:

The WHO categorizes carcinogenicity by how confident it is that a certain substance increases the risk of cancer, not by how much it increases the risk. Hence something that increases the risk of cancer by 1% can be in the same category as something that increases the risk of cancer by 100%, as long as both estimates are backed by similar strengths of evidence.

So, saying things like “processed meats are as bad as cigarettes” is tantamount to lying. The WHO itself notes this explicitly!

This is a common fallacy I call the “Boolean Mistake”—thinking that something is a yes/no question when what really matters is how much of some quantity you have. I think that this sort of error is one of the most powerful forces against science literacy in today’s society, especially considering just how much the media through which we communicate rely on short headlines and sound bites.

Not advocating for eating processed meats, by the way. Just want the data to be understood.

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