Eating too much red meat, processed meat boosts colorectal cancer

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David Liu, Ph.D. and editing Denise Reynolds

May 24, 2011 (foodconsumer.org) -- A review report funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) says men and women eating too much red meat and processed meat can drastically increase their risk of colorectal cancer, compared with those eat little.
 
The report, an update for The WCRF/AICR’s Continuous Update Project released by scientists at Imperial College London, also says eating lots of fiber-rich foods can cut the risk.
 
Red meats include beef, lamb and pork and processed meats include ham, bacon, hot dogs, sausages, pastrami and salami, which contain smoke, preservatives, curing agents and salt.  Fiber-rich foods include certain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
 
A 2007 report has already revealed that eating red meat and processed meat are correlated with higher risk of colorectal cancer while eating fiber rich foods is associated with lower risk of the disease.
 
The current review covered 263 more studies released after the 2007 report and found stronger evidence suggesting that eating meat boosts risk of colorectal cancer while eating a plant-based diet reduces the risk.
 
Men and women eating 3.5 ounces a day or 24.5 ounces a week of red meat were at a 17 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer, compared with those who ate no red meat. Intake of more than 7.0 ounces per day or 49 ounces per week of red meat was linked with 34 percent increased risk of the disease, compared to eating less than 18 ounces per week. The researchers further found eating less than 18 ounces per week did not seem to increase the risk significantly compared to those who ate little red meat.
 
Similarly, men and women who ate 3.5 ounces of processed meat each day or 24.5 ounces every week were at a 36 percent increased risk compared with those who did not eat any.  When the daily intake increased to 7.0 ounces per day or 49 ounces per week, the risk increased by 72 percent compared with those who ate little.
 
Also, the report finds that physical activity, being lean, avoiding alcohol and eating garlic may probably reduce the risk of colorectal cancer or colon cancer.
 
"This report shows that colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers," said Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, who was on the WCRF/AICR's Continuous Update Project (CUP) Expert Panel that authored the current report.
 
"AICR has estimated that about 45 percent of colorectal cancer cases could be prevented if we all ate more fiber–rich plant foods and less meat, drank less alcohol, moved more and stayed lean. That's over 64,000 cases in the US every year."

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