Three studies published in Tuesday's Journal of the American Medical Association shed new light on the role of diet and cancer.
In one article, scientists who studied the eating patterns of nearly 149,000 American adults over two decades found that those who ate the most red and processed meat over a 10-year period had a 30 percent higher risk of colon cancer and 40 percent greater risk of rectal cancer compared with those who consumed the least, says Marjorie McCullough, senior epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society and an author of the study.
In contrast, those whose diets included lots of poultry and fish were 30 percent less likely to get colon cancer compared with people who ate little of those foods. The researchers speculate that it's possible poultry and fish contain factors that may protect against colon cancer.
The article reinforces the results of earlier studies that linked meat and colon cancer, Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
Scientists need to do additional studies, he says, to get more detailed information about the relationship between meat and cancer.
Researchers say their findings are especially important today when many people are following popular low-carb diets and eating more red meat. Beef consumption, which began to fall in 1976, has been increasing slowly since 1993, according to the study.