Friday, October 16, 2015


Bowel cancer is now the third most common cancer in the UK but our cancer screening methods have really moved on and as a result we are able to diagnose many more cases than ever before.

The much repeated view from meat-free campaigns and animal charities is to eat less red meat but the evidence doesn’t stack up. In fact there is no evidence showing that lean, red meat has any causal relationship with the initiation of cancers.

Avoiding red meat in the diet is not a protective strategy against cancer.  Results from many studies show a very weak association between high red meat consumption and increased risk of cancer.  These include the large EPIC study, of which there is a British cohort, has found similar rates of bowel / colorectal cancer in vegetarians and meat-eaters [1].  Other studies have also shown no association between red meat intake and risk of other types of cancer including prostate [2], and breast cancer [3].  

In fact, Bowel Cancer UK states the main risks for bowel cancer as age, gender and family history than diet and lifestyle [4].
Keeping healthy is vital and as a result I advice patients the following:
• Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily if not more
• Take regular exercise – half an hour a day is a good starting point as per WHO guidelines
• Aim for an average of 70g cooked red meat daily as per SACN guidelines
• Eat plenty of high fibre and wholegrain foods.

[1] Keys T et al. (2014) Cancer in British vegetarians: updated analyses of 4998 incident cancers in a cohort of 32,491 meat eaters, 8612 fish eaters, 18,298 vegetarians, and 2246 vegans. Am J Clin Nutr 100(suppl): 378S–85S.
[2] Rohrmann, S., et al. (2015). "Intake of meat mutagens and risk of prostate cancer in a cohort of U.S. health professionals." Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.   
[3] Alexander, D et al (2010)” A review and meta-analysis of red and processed meat consumption and breast cancer.” Nutr Res Rev 23(2): 349-365

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