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The 118 carcinogens identified by the WHO

Rick Wilking/REUTERS

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer on Monday labeled processed meats as carcinogens and said that red meat likely can cause cancer, too.

In doing so, the agency added processed meat to a list of 117 other materials that it says can cause cancer in humans. That list, called Group 1, also includes tobacco, asbestos, formaldehyde, solar and ultraviolet radiation, air pollution, and alcoholic beverages.

However, being in the same group does not mean the materials are equally dangerous. The agency says it lists materials in a certain group based on the strength of the scientific evidence about its ties to cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.


Meanwhile, the agency added red meat to a list of 74 other materials that the agency is less certain can cause cancer, but “probably” do. That list is called Group 2A, and also includes androgenic, or anabolic, steroids and indoor emissions from the household combustion of biomass fuel, primarily wood.

The agency has three lesser classifications:

• There are 288 materials in Group 2B that are considered “possibly” carcinogenic;

• There are 503 materials in Group 3 that are “not classifiable;”

• And there is one material listed in Group 4, which is considered “probably not carcinogenic.”

Below is a list of each of the materials the WHO lists and which of the five classifications the agency has placed them in:

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrochele