Red meat increases risk of colorectal cancerBMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7505.1406-b (Published 16 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1406
Red and processed meats increase risk of colorectal cancerLondon
Eating red and processed meat increases the risk of people developing colorectal cancer, according to a European prospective study published this week (Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2005;97:906-16). The latest results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) showed that the risk of developing bowel cancer was a third higher for people eating more than two portions a day of red and processed meat than for those eating less than one portion a week. The investigation was set up 10 years ago to research the dietary habits of European people.
The study prospectively followed up 478 040 men and women aged 25-70 years from 10 European countries. All were free of cancer at enrolment between 1992 and 1998. Information on diet and lifestyle was collected at baseline. A total of 1329 incident colorectal cancers were documented after a mean follow-up of 4.8 years.
The data showed that colorectal cancer risk was positively associated with eating red and processed meat. The risk was 35% higher in people eating the highest amounts of these foods (>160 g/day) compared with those eating the lowest amounts (<20 g/day) (hazard ratio 1.35, 95% confidence interval 0.96 to 1.88; P=0.03). The absolute risk of developing of colorectal cancer within 10 years for a study participant aged 50 years was 1.71% for people eating the most red and processed meat and 1.28% for those with the lowest intake.
In contrast, the risk of colorectal cancer was inversely associated with eating fish. There was a risk reduction of nearly one third (31%) for people who consumed one portion or more of fish every other day (>80 g/day), compared with those who ate fish less than once a week (<10 g/day) (0.69, 0.54 to 0.88; P<0.001). The 10 year risk was 1.86% for people with the lowest intake of fish and 1.28% for people with the highest intake. Risk of colorectal cancer was not associated with poultry intake.
Sheila Bingham, a professor at the UK Medical Research Council’s Dunn Human Nutrition Unit in Cambridge and a principal investigator of the study, said, "People have suspected for some time that high levels of red and processed meat increase risk of bowel cancer, but this is one of the largest studies worldwide and the first from Europe of this type to show a strong relationship. The overall picture is very consistent for red and processed meat across all the European populations studied."
Red meat was defined as beef, lamb, pork, and veal. Processed meat was mostly pork and beef products preserved by methods other than freezing, including ham, bacon, sausages, liver pate, salami, and tinned meats.
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