There was a big ‘red meat gives you bowel cancer’ story running recently, that looked pretty damning, until you actually looked at the background research. Yes, it increased your risk of bowel cancer, if you didn’t eat vegetables, or fish. Not so impressive like that is it? Eating the fruit and veg effectively cancelled out the excess risk, as did three portions of fish a week.You see a lot of scare stories like this, like red meat causes breast cancer. This was taken from the Nurses Health Study. What the actual stats showed was that there was no overall increase in cancer risk from meat consumption, but that eating a lot of red meat (significantly, this includes processed meats) did increase the risk of one type of breast cancer. By inference, it must have decreased the risk of others for there to be no overall difference, but they didn’t print that.Here’s a link.
And here is a paste from the, often quoted by veggies, Seventh Day Adventist study. It is interesting to note that, adjusting for age and sex alone, vegetarians in the study population had a lower risk than non-vegetarians for every one of the cancers mentioned. In some instances, the differences were relatively slight, but in every case the risk for vegetarians was lower. Thus, vegetarians are an interesting group with respect to cancer risk. Is the active principle in this case the diet or some other attribute of vegetarians? There is clear evidence that vegetarians tend to differ from non-vegetarians in many ways aside from the consumption of flesh foods. For instance, vegetarians tend to be less obese, drink less coffee, and eat more legumes and vegetarian protein products. In addition, they exercise more regularly.Consequently, it is entirely possible that some of these other lifestyle and dietary attributes are the active principles in vegetarianism rather than just the absence of flesh foods. The previous analyses seem to show that, with the exception of bladder and perhaps colon cancer, dietary variables other than the absence of meat are more likely to be the active principles in reducing the risk of cancer. For instance, vegetarians tend to eat more fruit, legumes, and vegetarian protein products, and these foods are probably anti carcinogenic in and of themselves. However, the consumption of meat may also have some carcinogenic influence, and evidence of this may have been found for at least bladder cancer.
Not exactly damning meat consumption, is it? Just for a little extra clarity, I’m putting in a link to a bladder cancer site. 90% of bladder cancer occurs after the age of 65, and it’s incidence is decreasing. Smoking is the number one risk factor, and, rather humorously, soy protein is also named as a culprit, from several Chinese studies. The carcinogenic meat may very well be processed and smoked meats, as the Saami who eat non stop wild red meat, have a lower than normal incidence for cancer except for bowel cancer. Still, they do better overall.
My mother died of bladder cancer last year, age 56.