Red meat fuels bowel cancer risk
LONDON, England -- People who eat too much red and processed meat increase their risk of bowel cancer by up to a third, according to a new study.
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) concluded the risk of developing the disease for people who regularly ate more than two portions of red and processed meat a day was a third (35 percent) higher than for those who ate less than one portion a week.
The latest research, published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, used data from a study of the diets of more than half a million people across Europe.
The study also found the risk of developing bowel cancer increased for those people who had a diet low in fiber.
Poultry was not found to influence the risk, but the researchers did find that people who ate more fish faced less chance of developing the disease.
The risk of bowel cancer dropped by nearly a third (30 percent) for people who ate one portion or more of fish every other day -- compared to those who ate fish less than once a week.
The research was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Professor Sheila Bingham, a principal investigator of the study from the MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit in Cambridge, eastern England, told the Press Association: "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 and fiber across all the European populations studied."
EPIC coordinator Dr Elio Riboli, of the World Health Organization International Agency for Research into Cancer, told PA: "This study of so many different populations and diets has provided an accurate picture of how different kinds of familiar foods in our diet relate to the incidence of bowel cancer.
"Other risk factors for the disease include obesity and lack of physical activity.
"Smoking and excess alcohol may also play a role. These factors were all taken into account in the analysis."
Professor Tim Key, deputy director of Cancer Research UK's epidemiology unit, said the study strengthened evidence that bowel cancer risk could be cut by increasing fiber in the diet and reducing consumption of red and processed meat.
"Around 35,000 cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK.
"We estimate that more than two-thirds of colorectal cancer cases -- 25,000 cases in the UK -- could be avoided by changes in lifestyle in Western countries," he added.