Red meat consumption a risk factor in cancer?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Meat consumption, Cancer, Colorectal cancer

High consumption of meat over a long period of time could raise the
risk of developing colorectal cancer, say researchers following a
large sample study.

Their findings arrive as beef sales finally pick up in the European Union after being critically knocked following mad cow disease in the 1980s and 1990s.

More than 7 million people now die each year from cancer. Yet with the existing knowledge, at least one-third of cancer cases that occur annually throughout the world could be prevented, says the UN-backed World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dietary factors, second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer, account for about 30 per cent of all cancers in Western countries and approximately up to 20 per cent in developing countries.

Meat consumption has been associated with colorectal cancer in previous studies, but the strength of the association and types of meat involved have not been consistent, according to the study authors from the American Cancer Society.

Tracking for over 20 years nearly 150,000 US citizens aged between 50 and 74 years old, the researchers set out to clarify the role of meat consumption and any subsequent development of colorectal cancer.

"Persons in the highest tertile of consumption in both 1982 and 1992/1993 had a 50 per cent higher risk of distal colon cancer (a section of the colon near the rectum) associated with processed meat,"​ report the researchers.

Participants provided information on meat consumption in 1982 and again in 1992/1993. Those with the highest ratio of red meat-to-poultry and fish had a 53 per cent increased risk of distal colon cancer, relative to those persons in the lowest tertile at both time points.

Full findings for the study are published in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Research​ published in December last year found that high level red meat consumption could be a novel risk factor in developing inflammatory arthritis, or it may act as a marker for people with an increased risk from other lifestyle causes.

After adjusting for smoking and other possible dietary factors, participants with the highest level of red meat consumption in a trial of 25,000 men and women had a two-fold risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

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