Recent study findings from one of the largest nutrition investigations ever carried out has found that eating red and processed meat can increase bowel cancer risk by up to 35 percent. These findings were based on eating more than 160 grams (5.3 ounces) of red or processed compared to eating 20 grams (less than one ounce) or less a day.
After factoring in age, sex, height, weight, energy intake, physical activity, smoking, dietary fibre and alcohol consumption, the investigators found that bowel cancer was associated with intakes of red and processed meat, but not chicken.
Researchers also found that the risk of colorectal cancer dropped with increasing intake of fish. Eating more than 80 grams a day of fish was associated with a 31 percent reduction in risk compared with eating less than 10 grams a day. Overall, study participants with high red meat and low fish intake were at 63 percent higher risk of bowel cancer compared with subjects with low red meat and high fish intake.
The risk of developing the disease was increased for those people who ate a low fibre diet.
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) followed over 450,000 people aged 35 to 70. All participants were cancer free at the time of enrollment. After the average follow up of 5 years, over 1,300 colorectal cancer cases had been reported.
These findings confirm the long-held suspicion that high intakes of red meat are associated with increased bowel cancer risk.
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