Meat Consumption and Colorectal Cancer Risk

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As I discuss in my bestselling evidence-based book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, our dietary habits have an enormous impact on our risk of developing cancer, and particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.  Colorectal cancer risk, specifically, has been directly linked to diets high in red meat, processed meats, grilled meats, and other animal-based fats.  However, the majority of research data linking these dietary factors to colorectal cancer risk, and the premalignant “adenomatous” polyps that precede the development of colorectal cancer, has been based upon one-time surveys and one-time clinical examinations performed on public health research study volunteers.  Because of the known limitations of such studies, more compelling research data is needed to show, convincingly, that these dietary factors are indeed associated with a greater risk of premalignant and malignant tumors of the colon and rectum.  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the British Journal of Cancer, provides this higher-level data which, once again, confirms a link between meat-rich diets and colorectal cancer risk.

More than 17,000 volunteers participated in the prospective, giant Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCOCS Trial).  All of these clinically healthy volunteers underwent endoscopic examinations of the rectum and lower colon (proctosigmoidoscopy) both when they entered into the PLCOCS Trial and again during a follow-up examination.  Careful dietary records were also kept by all participants in this very large cancer screening trial.

A total of 1,008 research volunteers were found to have premalignant polyps (adenomas) of the lower colon and rectum during these two separate endoscopic colorectal examinations.  In this huge population of otherwise healthy research volunteers, the frequent consumption of grilled meat was associated with a 56 percent increase in the risk of developing premalignant colorectal adenomas, while increased intake of well- or very-well done cooked meat was associated with a 59 percent increase in the risk of colorectal adenomatous polyps.  Interestingly, despite the fact that the iron pigment in red meat (heme) has long been suspected of acting as a carcinogen within the colon and rectum, total dietary iron intake actually appeared to be somewhat protective against colorectal adenomas in this study; and study participants with higher levels of total iron intake were 31 percent less likely to develop colorectal adenomas.

This study, with its prospective design, its very large number of research participants, and its baseline and follow-up proctosigmoidoscopic exams, provides a more accurate view of the impact of meat intake on the risk of developing precancerous colorectal adenomatous polyps when compared to most previous similar research studies.  The findings of this huge clinical research study, therefore further confirm that precancerous colon and rectal adenomatous polyps are, indeed, strongly associated with meat intake in our diets.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-Million,Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books! On Christmas Day, 2010, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list!

Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author

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2 Comments on "Meat Consumption and Colorectal Cancer Risk"

  1. Miguel on Sun, 29th Apr 2012 5:09 am 

    I can see that you are putting a lots of efforts into your blog. Keep posting the good work. Some really helpful information in there. Bookmarked. Nice to see your site. Thanks!

  2. luis on Tue, 1st May 2012 8:25 pm 

    dwoolery, March 15, 2012 I had my colonoscopy when I turned 50. It really was no big deal I didn’t even mind the prep . I had nine polyps and have to go back in five years.

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