Large Study Links Red, Processed Meat to Certain Cancers

People who eat a lot of red and processed meats have a higher risk of developing several types of cancer, including lung cancer and colorectal cancer, according to a new study from the National Cancer Institute.

For the study, researchers examined data from a large U.S. diet and health study, which began in 1995 and involved 500,000 men and women ages 50-71.

The research was conducted by Amanda Cross and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute and is published in the latest issue of PLoS Medicine.

Click here to read the published article

This is what the study found.

People who ate the most red were 25 percent more likely to be diagnosed with bowel, liver, lung and esophageal cancer during the eight-year study, compared to those who consumed small amounts of this type of meat.

The researchers also found that people who ate the most processed meats, including bacon, ham and lunch meat, had a 20 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer and a 16 percent higher risk of lung cancer.

Researchers say 1 in 10 colorectal and 1 in 10 lung cancers could be avoided if people reduced their red and processed meat intake to very low amounts.

Most of the study participants were non-Hispanic white males and females, so these findings may not apply to people with different genetic backgrounds, the authors said. But the findings add to the evidence that suggests that decreased consumption of red and processed meats could reduce the incidence of several types of cancer. The American Cancer Society, for example, has warned for more than a decade of a connection between red meat and colon cancer.