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Red meat and colon cancer
Although the results vary, studies from around the world have suggested that a high consumption of meat is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. In all cases the worry is confined to red meat, not chicken.
The best evidence comes from a pair of large 2005 studies, one from Europe, the other from the United States. The European research tracked 478,000 men and women who were free of cancer when the study began. The people who ate the most red meat (about 5 ounces a day or more) were about a third more likely to develop colon cancer than those who ate the least red meat (less than an ounce a day on average). Their consumption of chicken did not influence risk one way or the other, but a high consumption of fish appeared to reduce the risk of colon cancer by about a third.
The U.S. study added important information about the effects of long-term meat consumption. The subjects were 148,610 people between the ages of 50 and 74. A high consumption of red and processed meats was linked with a substantial increase in the risk of cancer in the lower colon and rectum. Conversely, the long-term consumption of large amounts of fish and poultry appeared protective.
These two studies are impressive, and they don’t stand alone. A meta-analysis of 29 studies of meat consumption and colon cancer concluded that a high consumption of red meat increases risk by 28%, and a high consumption of processed meat increases risk by 20%.