Meat raises cancer risk

December 12, 2007 in Cancer Prevention, Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News

Meat raises cancer risk

Eating red or processed meats may increase a person's risk of certain types of cancer, including lung, colorectal, liver, pancreatic and esophageal cancers, say researchers for the U.S National Cancer Institute.

In this study, 500,000 adults aged 50 to 71 had their diet and death rates studied in an eight year follow-up.

People who ate the most processed meat - cold cuts, sausages, hot dogs, bacon and ham - had a 20 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer and a 16 percent higher risk for lung cancer when compared to their peers who ate less processed meat. This is the first study to link meat eating to lung cancer.

Eating red meat - defined as beef, pork and lamb - raised the risk of liver, esophageal, colorectal, and lung cancers by as much as 60 percent.  Pancreatic cancer risk was also elevated in men who ate the most red meat.

Scientists believe the saturated fat and iron found in meat may promote cancerous growth. Meat is also a source of certain carcinogenic substances that appear to cause DNA mutations.

Previous studies have linked meat eating to increased cancer risk, including a recent report from the World Cancer Research Fund. This report advised people to eat no more than 500 g (16 oz.) of cooked red meat per week to minimize their risk of colorectal cancer. The report also recommends eating very little processed meat, if eaten at all. 

A serving of meat is equal to 75 g (2.5 oz) or about the size of a deck of cards, according to Canada's Food Guide. The Food Guide also encourages people to choose fish and poultry, and meat alternatives, like beans, lentil and tofu more often.

To learn more about how to prevent cancer with nutrition, check out Leslie Beck's new book, Foods that Fight Disease.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.