(NaturalNews) Vegetarians are significantly less likely to develop cancer than non-vegetarians, according to a study conducted by researchers from universities in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and published in the British Journal of Cancer.
"These interesting results add to the evidence that what we eat affects our chances of developing cancer," said a spokesperson for Cancer Research U.K. "We know that eating a lot of red and processed meat increases the risk of stomach cancer."
Researchers followed 61,566 British adults and compared cancer rates among vegetarians, those who ate fish but not other kinds of meat, and those with no dietary restrictions. They found that the lifetime risk of developing cancer was 14 percent lower in vegetarians than in the general population. The protective effect was greatest for stomach cancer, bladder cancer, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and blood cancers. Vegetarians were less than 50 percent as likely to develop lymph and blood cancers as nonrestricted eaters, while their risk of a rare bone marrow cancer known as multiple myeloma was 75 percent lower. Fish-eaters had a lower risk of blood and lymph cancers than nonrestricted eaters, but their risk was still higher than that of vegetarians.
It is the first study specifically showing a link between a vegetarian diet and a lower risk of bone marrow cancer.
"Dietary advice to myeloma patients remains aligned with national guidance -- that they should eat a healthy, balanced diet high in fiber, fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat, salt and red and processed meat," Myeloma U.K. said.
Red and processed meats have previously been linked to elevated rates of stomach cancer. Processed meat is believed to be particularly dangerous, due to the N-nitroso compound used to preserve them and the high temperatures they are cooked at.
The researchers found that vegetarians and fish eaters had roughly the same risk of stomach cancer, about one-third less than the risk experienced by unrestricted eaters. This adds evidence to the theory that red and processed meats are particular risk factors for this kind of cancer.