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Moderate meat eaters at risk of bowel cancer

Moderate meat eaters at risk of bowel cancer

Eating even moderate amounts of red and processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer, according to a study published today in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The study showed that people eating on average around 76g of red and processed meat a day, which is roughly in line with UK Government recommendations, still had a 20% higher chance of developing bowel cancer than those who only ate on average about 21g a day. Researchers studied the diets of men and women participating in UK Biobank. Participant’s health was followed for more than five years, during that time 2,609 of them developed bowel cancer.

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

The World Health Organization classifies processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic, whilst researchers argue that more data are required to define the relative risks of different meats more clearly.