Links between eating red meat and distal colon cancer in women

April 02, 2018

A new study suggests that a diet free from red meat significantly reduces the risk of a type of colon cancer in women living in the United Kingdom.

University of Leeds researchers were part of an international team that assessed whether red meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian diets are associated with risk of colon and rectal cancer.

When comparing the effects of these diets to cancer development in specific subsites of the colon, they found that those regularly eating red meat compared to a red meat-free diet had higher rates of distal colon cancer -- cancer found on the descending section of the colon, where faeces is stored.

Lead author Dr Diego Rada Fernandez de Jauregui is part of the Nutritional Epidemiology Group (NEG) at Leeds, and the University of the Basque Country in Spain. He said: "The impact of different types of red meat and dietary patterns on cancer locations is one of the biggest challenges in the study of diet and colorectal cancer.

"Our research is one of the few studies looking at this relationship and while further analysis in a larger study is needed, it could provide valuable information for those with family history of colorectal cancer and those working on prevention."

More than 2.2 million new cases of colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, are expected worldwide by 2030. It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in UK women. Previous studies have suggested that eating lots of red and processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and it is estimated that around 1 in 5 bowel cancers in the UK are linked to eating these meats. However, there is limited available information about specific dietary patterns and the site of cancer occurrence in the bowel.

The study used data from the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study. This cohort included a total of 32,147 women from England, Wales and Scotland. They were recruited and surveyed by the World Cancer Research fund between 1995 and 1998 and were tracked for an average of 17 years.

In addition to reporting their dietary habits, a total of 462 colorectal cases were documented and of the 335 colon cancers, 119 instances were of distal colon cancer. The study analysis, published today in the International Journal for Cancer, explored the relationship between the four dietary patterns and colorectal cancer and a further exploratory analysis examined the correlation between diet and colon subsites.

Co-author Janet Cade is head of the NEG and Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology and Public Health at the School of Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds. She said: "Our study not only helps shed light on how meat consumption may affect the sections of the colorectum differently, it emphasises the importance of reliable dietary reporting from large groups of people.

"With access to the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study we are able to uncover trends in public health and analyse how diet can influence the prevention of cancer. Accurate dietary reporting provides researchers with the information they need to link the two together."
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Further information:

Please contact University of Leeds press office pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk or +44(0)113 343 4031 for any additional information.

The paper Common dietary patterns and risk of cancers of the colon and rectum: Analysis from the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study is published in International Journal for Cancer 02 April 2018 (DOI: 10.1002/ijc.31362)

The results of this study were based on data obtained from the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study. The findings relate to the women who were a part of this cohort and may not be indicative of diet and cancer relationships in other countries. This report highlights the correlation between red meat and cancer in the distal colon which is one subsite of the colon.

University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 33,000 students from more than 150 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities.

We are a top ten university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, and are in the top 100 for academic reputation in the QS World University Rankings 2018. Additionally, the University was awarded a Gold rating by the Government's Teaching Excellence Framework in 2017, recognising its 'consistently outstanding' teaching and learning provision. Twenty-six of our academics have been awarded National Teaching Fellowships - more than any other institution in England, Northern Ireland and Wales - reflecting the excellence of our teaching. http://www.leeds.ac.uk

University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)

The University of the Basque Country is the public university of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, a vibrant 30-year-old institution with 45,000 students, 5,000 world-class academic staff and state-of-the-art facilities.

In a prosperous region stretching along the Atlantic coast of northern Spain, it is the main research institution in the Basque Country, carrying out 90% of the basic research made in that territory and taking advantage of the good industrial environment that the region constitutes. It offers a wide range of degrees, in areas from experimental sciences, engineering and humanities to health sciences, economics, arts or architecture. It has 70 undergraduate programs, and 200 postgraduate programmes. Following the motto 'Give and spread knowledge', the University of the Basque Country is an integrating institution willing to produce knowledge, experience and research in order to forward them to the general public. http://www.ehu.eus

University of Leeds

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