Eating red meat and processed meat even just once a day can increase the risk of developing bowel cancer, according to a new study.
A study by Oxford University based on almost half a million Brits who signed up to the UK Biobank research project found that even moderate intake of red meat and processed meat is linked to increased risk of developing bowel cancer.
The new study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that eating 76 grams of red or processed meat a day results in a 20% increased risk of developing bowel cancer.
It also found that the risk increased by 20% when consuming an extra slice of ham or bacon (around 25 grams), while 19% when consuming an extra slice of roast beef or lamb cutlet (around 50 grams).
Additionally, the research found that heavy alcohol drinkers have around a 25% risk of getting cancer.
Professor Tim Key, expert in diet and cancer in Cancer Research UK and a co-author of the study, said that the research still needs to be adjusted to check if the participants had accurately reported their diet as some might have forgotten what they have eaten for the day or failed to tell the truth.
“We are not claiming that therefore the government recommendation is wrong and should be changed,” Key told The Guardian.
Dr. Gunter Kuhnle, an associate professor, added: “The results of this study also question the recent focus on nitrite as the main culprit for colorectal cancer: the authors found very small differences between red and processed meat in this study, even though only processed meat contains nitrite.”
“A reduction or removal of nitrite from meat products would therefore have only little impact on cancer risk. An increased consumption of fibre, as shown by this study, would be of considerably more benefit,” he concluded.