A new study has shown that people with colorectal cancer who eat less red and processed meat before their diagnosis can live longer – and that those who habitually eat a lot of the meat are more at risk of death from any cause.
The study, by the American Cancer Society (ACS), also found that continuing to consume the same amounts of meat post-diagnosis was associated with a 79 per cent higher risk of death from colorectal cancer, compared to those who ate below average amounts.
The lesson: start reducing meat consumption early, rather than waiting for a diagnosis of cancer to shock you into changing your eating habits.
The link between high red meat consumption and a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer has already been established in several medical papers.
Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the ACS study analysed 2,315 survivors of colorectal cancer, either localised or regional non-metastatic colon or rectal cancer – their average age at diagnosis was 73 years old.
Those who ate more red and processed meats were generally more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, be overweight, have less education and eat less healthily than those who ate less meat, the study showed.
During an average 7½ year follow-up, 966 patients with colorectal died.
It underlines the importance of cutting down early on the amount of meat we eat, according to the study’s lead author, nutritional epidemiologist Marjorie McCullough.
“The association between red and processed meat and overall mortality was driven by prediagnostic intake,” she said. “This underscores the importance of a lifelong healthy diet.”