Eating Red Meat, Processed Meat Increases Risk of Colon Cancer

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According to a new report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund, red meat and processed meat may increase a person’s odds of developing colon cancer.

Expounding on their 2007 Continuous Update Project, the two groups note that eating less red meat and avoiding various forms of processed meat can in fact reduce the likelihood of getting colon cancer by as much as 45 percent. They describe that if the guidelines that they set forth are followed, more than 64,000 cases of colon cancer every year can be prevented.

"The good news is that we have some control over our colon cancer risk," said Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology, Cancer Institute of New Jersey, New Brunswick. Bandera was a member of the expert panel that analyzed all of the available literature on colon cancer risk, diet, exercise and weight.

As per the report, eating fewer than 18 ounces of red meat per week is a good first step in reducing the chances of being diagnosed with the disease. On the flip side, those who opt to eat 3.5 ounces of red meat on a daily basis will be 17 percent more likely to develop colon cancer than those who eat no red meat at all.

"It appears that red meat -- and maybe processed meat even more -- has some relationship with colon cancer risk," said panel member Steven H Zeisel, MD, PhD, Professor of nutrition and pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

"A betting person would say there is risk associated with the consumption of red meat and processed meat," he says. "Moderating the amount of red meat you take in is reasonable based on this data. And trying to cut back and substitute other types of meat or vegetables would be a good idea for someone who wants to reduce risk of colon cancer."

"If you limit consumption of red meat, you have more room on your plate for good things like whole grains and vegetables," Bandera said. "Choosing brown rice instead of white rice is a good way of increasing fiber."


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