Red-meat lovers are more likely to develop certain cancers of the throat and stomach than people who limit their intake of red meat.
Previous research has shown that red and processed meats are associated with a lower risk of oesophageal cancer. There was a similar level of evidence for a link between processed meats and stomach cancer, and insufficient data on whether red meat intake is connected to the cancer at all. However, most of the studies analysed in earlier reports were case-control studies, where researchers asked patients with a given disease about their past lifestyle habits and other health factors, and then compared them to a group of healthy individuals. Such a study design offers limited evidence about whether a particular exposure like red meat in the diet is related to a disease risk. Prospective studies, which follow initially healthy people over time, provide stronger evidence.
Researchers followed 494,979 American adults aged 50 to 71 years over roughly 10 years. At the outset, participants completed detailed questionnaires on their diet including the methods they typically used for cooking meat as well as other lifestyle factors. Over the next decade, it was found that 215 study participants developed oesophageal cancer squamous cell carcinoma; that included 28 cases among the bottom 20 percent for red-meat intake, and 69 cases in the top 20 percent. Another 454 men and women were diagnosed with gastric cardia (stomach) cancer. There were 57 cases among participants with the lowest red-meat intake, and 113 in the group with the highest intake.
When the researchers accounted for other factors like age, weight, smoking and reported exercise habits participants who ate the most red meat were 79 percent more likely than those with the lowest intake to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus. Red meat itself was not associated with gastric cardia (stomach) cancer. These results add to what has been an uncertain body of evidence on the link between red meat and oesophageal and stomach cancers.
Red meat was not clearly linked to oesophageal adenocarcinoma a cancer that arises in glandular cells in the lower oesophagus or to cancers in other parts of the stomach (non-cardia stomach cancers). The different findings for different cancer subtypes are not surprising since they may differ in their underlying causes. For instance, smoking and heavy drinking are strong risk factors for oesophageal squamous cell cancer compared with adenocarcinoma, while obesity seemed to be a greater factor in adenocarcinoma risk.
It is thought that, if red meat does contribute to the cancer, HCA exposure would be one reason why. Therefore, there is need for further large, prospective studies to see whether the relationship between red meat and the two cancers is real. Many health authorities already recommend that people limit their consumption of red and processed meat for better health.






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