Beating bowel cancer together

New research says even moderate red and processed meat eaters at risk of bowel cancer

Wednesday 17 April 2019

People who eat red and processed meat within department of health guidelines are still at increased risk of bowel cancer, according to a study published today (Wednesday 17 April) in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Scientists have shown that people eating around 76g of red and processed meat a day, which is roughly in line with government recommendations, still had a 20% higher chance of developing bowel cancer than those who only ate about 21g a day. 

One in 15 men and 1 in 18 women born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime. This study found that risk rose 20% with every 25g of processed meat, roughly equivalent to a rasher of bacon or slice of ham, people ate per day, and 19% with every 50g of red meat, such as a thick slice of roast beef or the edible bit of a lamb chop.

This is one of the largest single studies in this area and one of few to measure meat quantities and associated risks in detail.

Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs said: “This interesting study adds to a growing body of evidence highlighting the link between red and processed meat, and bowel cancer. The findings underline the importance of cutting back on these foods as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with almost 42,000 people diagnosed every year. Making simple changes to your lifestyle can help stack the odds against bowel cancer. As well as avoiding processed foods, like bacon, ham and salami and limiting our intake of red meat, increasing our intake of wholegrains and pulses, being of a healthy weight, cutting down on alcohol, taking more exercise, and stopping smoking will make a real difference to our health in general.”

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