Eating Less Than Recommended Daily Serving of Red Meat Still Associated With Cancer

Researchers found that consuming red and processed meat at an average level of 76 g/d, which is less than the current U.K. government recommendation of ≤90 g/day, was associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer (CRC). Alcohol was also associated with an increased risk of CRC, whereas consumption of fiber was associated with a reduced risk. The results of the study were published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. 

The researchers used Cox-regression models to estimate adjusted hazard ratios for CRC by dietary factors in the U.K. Biobank study, which included men and women aged 40 to 69 years at recruitment between 2006 and 2010. A total of 475,581 participants completed a short food-frequency questionnaire about their diet. In addition, dietary intake was measured in a large subsample of 175,402 patients who completed an online 24-hour dietary assessment during follow-up.  

Cancer risk increases with consumption

During an average of 5.7 years of follow-up, there were 2,609 cases of CRCCompared with those who reported eating 21 g/day (the approximate equivalent of a slice of ham) of red and processed meat, those who reportedly consumed an average of 76 g/day (the approximate equivalent of a quarter-pound beef burger) had a 20% higher risk of CRC (95% CI, 4-37) 

The study also found that processed meat (e.g., sausage, bacon) was a bigger risk than red meat, with the risk of CRC increasing 20% with every 25 grams of processed meat (the approximate equivalent of a thin slice of bacon) and by 19% with every 50 grams of red meat (the approximate equivalent of a thick slice of roast beef) consumed per day. 

Alcohol was associated with an 8% (95% CI, 412) higher risk per 10 g/day intake. 

Which foods are safe?

Those in the highest fifth of intake of fiber from bread and breakfast cereals had a 14% reduced risk of CRC (95% CI, 2-24) 

The researchers did not observe any correlation with CRC risk for the following items: fish, poultry, cheese, fruit, vegetables, tea, and coffee.