Eating red meat regularly may significantly increase the risk of a type of colon cancer in women, a study has found. Researchers from the University of Leeds in the UK assessed whether red meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian diets are associated with risk of colon and rectal cancer. When comparing the effects of these diets to cancer development in specific subsites of the colon, they found that those regularly eating red meat compared to a red meat-free diet had higher rates of distal colon cancer, which is found on the descending section of the colon, where faeces are stored.
“The impact of different types of red meat and dietary patterns on cancer locations is one of the biggest challenges in the study of diet and colorectal cancer,” said Diego Rada Fernandez de Jauregui, from the University of the Basque Country in Spain. “Our research is one of the few studies looking at this relationship and while further analysis in a larger study is needed, it could provide valuable information for those with a family history of colorectal cancer and those working on prevention,” said Jauregui, lead author of the study published in International Journal for Cancer.
More than 2.2 million new cases of colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, are expected worldwide by 2030. Previous studies have suggested that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and it is estimated that around 1 in 5 bowel cancers in the UK are linked to eating these meats. However, there is limited available information about specific dietary patterns and the site of cancer occurrence in the bowel.
The study used data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, which included a total of 32,147 women from England, Wales and Scotland. In addition to reporting their dietary habits, a total of 462 colorectal cases were documented and of the 335 colon cancers, 119 instances were of distal colon cancer. The study explored the relationship between the four dietary patterns and colorectal cancer and a further exploratory analysis examined the correlation between diet and colon subsites.
“Our study not only helps shed light on how meat consumption may affect the sections of the colorectum differently, it emphasises the importance of reliable dietary reporting from large groups of people,” said Janet Cade, from Leeds University.