Study linking red and processed meat to colorectal cancer ‘most authoritative ever’

X-ray of the colon

The case for red and processed meat increasing the risk of colorectal cancer is “convincing”, according to the most comprehensive and authoritative study ever published on the subject.

Released today, the Continuous Update Project (CUP) Expert Panel report updates findings from 2007’s Expert Panel report, with scientists at Imperial College London adding 263 new medical papers on colorectal cancer to the 749 that had been included previously, and making new judgements based on the entire body of information.

Ten new cohort studies on the link with red and processed meat were added to the 14 found in the 2007 report, leading the Expert Panel to conclude that the evidence for a link was “convincing”.

“On meat, the clear message that comes out of our report is that red and processed meat increase risk of bowel cancer and that people who want to reduce their risk should consider cutting down the amount they eat,” said panel chair Professor Alan Jackson of Southampton University.

WCRF recommends people limit their intake of meat to 500g a week.

The report – co-authored by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research – also indicates that eating processed meat increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer twice as much as red meat.

Colorectal cancer (also known as cancer of the large bowel) is the third most common cancer in the UK, after breast and lung cancer. The report estimates that 43 per cent of cases – 17,000 – could be prevented if people ate less meat and more fibre. Too much alcohol and too little exercise are also contributory factors.

The CUP report also upgraded the beneficial role of fibre, saying the evidence that high-fibre food reduced the risk of colorectal cancer was now “convincing” rather than “probable”.

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