One of the essential tools in the fight against cancer is the plate. Researchers continue to discover links between meat intake and cancer risk. How closely are cancer and meat consumption connected?
A recent study at Oxford University found further evidence that eating meat is associated with higher risks of some types of cancer. The idea isn’t new, but it provides more evidence that meat intake can significantly affect cancer development.
What Did The Study Say?
Vegetarians, pescatarians, and individuals whose diets include little meat have reduced cancer risk. The Oxford study focused on three of the most common types of cancer: prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and postmenopausal breast cancer.
The study was one of the largest focused on the topic, consisting of 472,377 people between 40 and 70 years old. None of the participants had a cancer diagnosis at the beginning of the study and were required to self-report their meat intake over an average of 11.4 years.
One of the drawbacks of the study is also one of its strengths. The four cohorts were grouped by the reported amount of meat products consumed. The relative proportion of these cohorts within the stud are somewhat reflective of national (that is to say, British) dietary habits but may not offer additional insight into specific eating habits.
Meat eaters: 52.4% of the study population eating meat more than five times per week.
Low meat eaters: 43.5% of the study, 43.5% of the survey, at meat no more than five times per week.
Fish eaters: 2.3%, ate no red meat but did eat fish
Vegetarians and vegans: 1.8% of the study ate no meat or fish
The Study Results
Of the 472,377 people in the study, 54,961 individuals developed cancer, with prostate cancer contributing 9,501 cases.
Vegetarians were 14% less likely to develop cancer than meat-eaters, while fish eaters were 10% less likely to develop cancer. Even low meat-eaters saw a benefit, reducing their risk of developing cancer by 2% compared to the meat-eater cohort.
Restricting meat consumption appears to be even more beneficial in men. Pescatarian and vegan men saw their cancer risk decrease by 20% and 31%, respectively, the most pronounced reduction of any demographic combination. Vegetarian women benefited most, with an average 18% lower risk of breast cancer.
A more in-depth study of the effects of vegetarianism would be beneficial, as would analyzing more contextual information on lifestyle. For example, Body Mass Index (BMI) appeared to play more of a role in developing breast cancer than dietary habits.
Other factors include many of the most influential cancer risk factors, such as:
· Smoking and drinking habits
Vegetarians and pescatarians in the study were more likely to be young, educated, and reported markedly lower smoking and alcohol consumption rates.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that health is a lifestyle and that lifestyle is a habit. As we introduce more healthy habits, we extend the effort to reduce common risk factors and increase cancer prevention methods like exercise and a nutritious diet.
Oxford Study Reinforces Link Between Cancer and Meat Intake was originally published in Less Cancer Journal on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.