Further Evidence that Red Meat Causes Colon Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Colon Cancer

In Surprise, New Study Also Reveals Protective Effect of Fish

Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) today welcomed the latest results from the largest scientific study to investigate the links between diet and cancer risk ever undertaken. Today's findings corroborate what cancer experts at AICR have been saying for years: diets high in red and processed meats are associated with higher risk of colon cancer.

AICR recommends limiting consumption of red meat to 3 ounces per day.

Results from the ongoing European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study appear in the June 14 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers tracked the diets of over half a million subjects in ten European countries for an average of 5 years.

They found that those subjects who ate the most red meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb) and processed meats (sausages, ham, bacon, and cold cuts) had a 35 percent greater risk of developing colon cancer compared to those subjects who ate the least of these foods.

Interestingly, the same study also revealed that consumption of fish was associated with lower risk of colon cancer. Previous evidence linking consumption of fish to lower risk colon cancer has been less consistent.

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Subjects who ate the most fish (including fresh, canned, salted and smoked fish) had a 31 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer than subjects who ate the least.

The authors found that the two effects, meat increasing risk and fish lowering risk, were independent of each other. This is intriguing, because many experts have assumed that any lowering of colon cancer risk seen in populations who consume diets high in fish should be attributed to the relative lack of meat in such diets.

The new study is the strongest evidence yet that consumption of fish has a measurable and significant protective effect against colon cancer. Although the authors did not distinguish between types of fish, the existence of such a protective effect seems to align with recent laboratory and clinical evidence on the anti-cancer activity of omega-3 fatty acids, found in tuna, salmon and other cold water "fatty fish."

Among the study subjects, consumption of poultry (chicken and turkey) had no effect on colon cancer risk.

The cancer experts at AICR said that all of this new evidence will be factored into an upcoming landmark report authored by AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund that will assess and evaluate thousands of studies on diet and cancer risk. This expert report, entitled Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective will be published in the fall of 2007.

Until that time, AICR's advice for individuals looking to lower their risk for cancer remains unchanged:

If eaten at all, limit intake of red meat to less than 3 ounces daily. It is preferable to choose fish or poultry.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on diet and cancer and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $72 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International. WASHINGTON, DC

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