(NaturalNews) Many studies have shown that eating red meat in high quantities can be harmful to your health. The general consensus seems to be that we should eat less of it. Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer in both men and women in the U.S. It affects over 145,000 people and kills over 56,000 each year. The link between colon cancer and red meat has been shown before, but this study by American Cancer Society researchers helps explain the relationship between the two.
The Study The findings of this study will be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 293, No. 2: 172-182). It is based on a long-term study of about 149,000 people between 50 and 74 years old. The participants filled out a questionnaire detailing their eating habits in 1982, and again in 1992/1993. The leader of the study was Michael Thun, MD, MS, chief of epidemiology and surveillance research at ACS. Thun and his colleagues looked at how many people had developed the disease by 2001; they then analyzed the risk according to the amount of meat that was consumed.
The participants who consumed the most red meat in both time periods were 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop cancer in the lower part of their colon, compared to the participants who ate the least. The people who ate the most processed meats were 50 percent more likely to develop colon cancer and 20 percent more likely to develop rectal cancer compared to those who ate the least. For red meat the researchers defined "high" as 3 or more ounces per day for men and 2 or more ounces for women. For processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, cold cuts) "high" was defined as 1 ounce eaten 5 or 6 days per week for men, and 2 or 3 days per week for women. Eating white meat (poultry and fish) did not raise the risk of getting colon cancer. In fact, the group that ate more white meat was less likely to develop colon cancer, the American Cancer Society said. The researchers say that they aren't sure about why red meat influences cancer risk.
Study Shortcomings The study does not take into account all the other factors that go into developing colon cancer. There could have been other factors that contributed to the increased risk of developing colon cancer. They compared the group that ate more red meat to the group that ate more poultry and fish and found that those who ate white meat were healthier and had a lower chance of getting colon cancer, but it is impossible to say if the white meat group had other habits that lower the risk. Even though the study isn't perfect, it gives us a guideline. The American Cancer Society stated, "This is not a condemnation of red meat, but it is part of a growing body of evidence that red meat shouldn't be the mainstay of your diet."