For red meat lovers out there…this is definitely not your day. The now more definitive report that links red meat to certain cancers is fairly strong and may spell ‘well-done’ to those of you who love to see your steaks moving before they are cooked. Probably nothing is going to make you give up red meat but perhaps reading this blog and the new report from the World Cancer Research fund will inspire you to consider reducing your red meat intake.
Here is the scoop on red meat and bowel cancer. It turns out that the evidence (although still pretty associative) is fairly overwhelming; that red meats such as pork, beef, or lamb in addition to ham and salami are quite harmful when looking at the risk of bowel related cancers. UK scientist as well as groups from other countries have looked at over 24 independent papers in addition to 260 plus general papers on diet, excercise and lifestyles and their impact on cancer. The overall data when just looking at the red meat portion of those studies is that, substantial data now more accurately links red meat consumption to increased risk in bowel related cancer. This means that each study itself may not be significant, but after 2007 where the controversial findings were reported, enough additional material continues to support the hypothesis. Thus, enough papers exist now that really make this red meat-cancer danger hypothesis more likely to be true.
It is actually not all bad news, as the cancer group recommended that one can eat red meats but that he/she should reduce that consumption to no more than 70g/day on average. This is a reasonable amount for most of us as it equals to about 2 regular burgers or one lamb chop. However, those who eat red meats twice a day would need to consider cutting down substantially. In addition to reducing the red meat intake and eliminating processed meats such as salami and processed ham, the reduction in bowel cancer is seen better with those who take increased amounts of fiber with their meals. So, to make things better one could reduce the meat component of their meal and replace it with a higher fiber substitute such as whole wheat, fruits or even vegetables. The estimates are that out of the 36K people who develop bowel cancer in the UK a year, about half of them could be cancer free if they were able to adhere to these recommendations.
Again, this is not proof that says…”hey red meat causes cancer.” But, it goes along way in saying, hey “if you eat large amounts of processed meats and red meats every week, you will increase your risk in developing bowel cancer.” Again, as I have mentioned time and time again, the doctors can try to help you once you get cancer (surgery if possible, radiation or chemotherapy), but you too, have a role to play in your own health. The reduction of red meats in your life is certainly not impossible. It is a lifestyle choice.
ps.s the cancer we most talk about when we say bowel cancer is colon or rectal cancer or colorectal cancer.
Thank you for reading: Dr. C
- Red meat ‘raises bowel cancer risk’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- Why Red Meat May Cause Colorectal Cancer (fyiliving.com)