Red and processed meats linked to bowel cancer

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A large-scale study has demonstrated a risk of bowel cancer associated with the consumption of large amount of red or processed meats.

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study was set up ten years ago to investigate the effects of nutrition on cancer. Funded by the British Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, half a million people aged between 25 and 70 across Europe were studied from 1992 to 1998. The results are being published in the latest edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

After an average of five years, people who had eaten more than two portions of red and processed meats a day (160g) were 35% more likely to develop bowel cancer than those who only ate one portion a week.

Eating one or more portions of fish a day (over 80g) was associated with a reduction of 20% in risk compared to people who only ate fish once a week.

Chicken was found to have no effect.

Red meat was defined as beef, lamb, pork and veal while processed meat was mostly pork and beef that were preserved by methods other than freezing. These include ham, bacon, sausages, liver pate, salami, tinned meat, luncheon meat and corned beef.

In the UK, bowel cancer is the second most common cancer for women and third most common for men. In England and Wales, currently about 1 in 18 men and 1 in 20 women will be diagnosed with the disease. Some 50% of bowel cases are cured - rising to 80% if caught early enough.

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