Azara Blog: Link between red meat and bowel cancer

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Date published: 2005/06/15

The BBC says:

A major study has found fresh evidence of a link between red and processed meat and bowel cancer, scientists say.

The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) looked at the dietary habits of over 500,000 people across Europe over 10 years.

Bowel cancer risk was a third higher for those who regularly ate over two 80g portions of red or processed meat a day, compared to less than one a week.

EPIC's study is reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study also found a low fibre diet increased the risk of bowel cancer.

Eating poultry had no impact but the risk for people who ate one portion or more of fish every other day was nearly a third lower than those who ate fish less than once a week.
The researchers defined red meat as beef, lamb, pork and veal.

Processed meat was mostly pork and beef that were preserved by methods other than freezing. They include ham, bacon, sausages, liver pate, salami, tinned meat, luncheon meat and corned beef.

The key word is the researchers have found a "link", i.e. a correlation, and of course there is a difference between correlation and causation. In this case it's hard to imagine why the implied causation, that eating too much red meat actually causes bowel cancer, might not be true given the correlation. But this causation has not been proven by this study. And another problem with the way this kind of research is done and reported is that it looks at one thing in isolation. So excessive meat eating might be bad for you on this one specific front, bowel cancer. (And as we all know, most excessive eating or drinking of anything is bad for you.) But meat eating is no doubt good for you on other fronts. The moral of the story is just to ignore all reports about diet, and eat what you want, in moderation.

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