Red Meat, Bacon, Processed Meats and Cancer: Back in the News

On Monday the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) will release their evaluation of the cancer risk associated with red and processed meat. The findings, leaked to the press, will reportedly support AICR’s analysis of the research on this issue and our recommendation to limit red med meat and avoid processed meat.

updated statement: Diet–Cancer Experts Welcome WHO Report on Meat and Cancer

Here at AICR we haven’t had a chance to read the full IARC report yet. When we do, we’ll update this blog post with our reaction.43846009_s

In the meantime, here is what we know for certain:

  1. Research shows a clear and convincing link between diets high in red meat and risk for colorectal cancer.
  2. Research shows a clear and convincing link between even small amounts of hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats to colorectal cancer.

The IARC report may be new, but the evidence showing a link between red meats and colorectal cancer is not news. For years we have been recommending that Americans reduce the amount of red meat (beef, pork, lamb) in their diets and avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and cold cuts. This advice grows out of our report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective and our recent report on colorectal cancer, This report, part of the Continuous Update Project, analyzed the global scientific research into the link between diet, physical activity, weight and cancer.

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Trial Shows Vitamin D, Calcium Supplements Don’t Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk

For those who have had possible precancerous growths removed from their colon/rectum — common among adults — taking vitamin D and/or calcium supplements does not reduce the risk of developing further growths, finds a randomized study reported in the New England Journal Of Medicine. The multi-year trial adds to the evidence that supplements Composition With Variety Of Drug Pills And Dietary Supplementsdo not protect against colorectal cancers.

While there are many reasons to take supplements, AICR recommends not to rely on supplements for cancer protection.

The 2,259 people in this study all had colorectal abnormal growths, called adenomas or polyps. Some of these growths on the lining of the colon or rectum could eventually lead to colorectal cancer, which is why they are commonly removed.

Within four months of having the polyps removed, the participants (who were 45 to 75 years old) were placed into a group where he/she took a daily dietary supplement of vitamin D, calcium, both or neither. The study was blinded so neither the researchers nor participants knew what they were taking. And when they joined the study, everyone had normal levels of calcium or vitamin D.  Continue reading


Heart Healthy Mediterranean Diet May Cut Breast Cancer Risk

canstockphoto13663884For years, we’ve heard a lot about the heart health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. Now an analysis from a randomized trial suggests this diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and nuts, may help lower risk of breast cancer.

The analysis, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is from the PREDIMED trial – a 6 year study that includes data from over 4000 women, 60-80 years old and at high risk for cardiovascular disease. The women had been assigned to follow one of three diets, a Mediterranean diet where they received extra virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet with provided mixed nuts, or they were advised to follow a low fat diet. The women had quarterly sessions with a dietitian to assess how well they were following the diet.

At the end of the study, the women following the Mediterranean diet with olive oil showed a 62% lower risk of malignant breast cancer than the control, low fat diet group. When researchers put the olive oil and nuts groups together, there was a 51% relative risk reduction compared to the control group. Continue reading