Reducing Meat Intake may Lower Cancer Risk
April is National Cancer Control Month, so any ideas that help us reduce our cancer risk are good to consider. The American Cancer Association projects that in 2022 there will be 1.9 million new cases of cancer and 609,360 deaths from cancer in the U.S. A new study published online at BMC Medicine notes that there may be a relationship between meat intake and certain types of cancer. Here is more from this study of 472,000 British adults, ages 40 to 70 years and their incidence of new cancer cases over an 11 year timeframe.
Among the 472,000 participants in this study, 52% ate meat five times or less per week. Meat includes beef, pork, veal and lamb. The researchers looked at the meat intake at all three meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another 2% of the participants ate seafood but no meat; they are called pescatarians. And then 2% of the adults in the study were vegetarian or vegans.
Over the course of 11 years, 55,000 or 12% of the group developed cancer.
There was a 9% lower risk for colorectal cancer if meat was consumed five times per week or less.
- Prostate cancer risk:
- 20% lower risk if fish was included in the diet but no meat.
- 31% lower risk if a person was vegetarian vs those who ate meat more than 5 times per week.
- Post-menopausal women who ate a vegetarian diet had an 18% lower risk for breast cancer than those who ate meat more than five times per week.
- Compared to all of the meat-eaters in the study, the risk for all types of cancer was 10% lower among those who ate fish but not meat.
So it seems that moving toward more vegetarian meals, and replacing some meat-based meals with fish are good dietary changes for cancer prevention. The researchers think that meat intake, including processed meats, may negatively affect our healthy gut microbiome, putting us at cancer risk. Meats that are cooked at high temperatures or charred when cooking (which often happens when cooking on a grill) and the processing of meats (bacon and sausage, for example) may damage cells, making them more susceptible to becoming cancerous.
There is still much to be learned in this area and our cancer researchers are dedicated to helping reduce overall cancer risk nationwide. More information at www.cancer.org.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita Smith, RD