Consuming red and processed meat, as well as junk food including sugary drinks, can increase the risk of bowel cancer by a third, according to new research.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, looks at whether ‘proinflammatory dietary patterns increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer’ – the US’s second most deadly cancer, killing 50,000 Americans every year.
Researchers looked at a number of food and drinks known to cause inflammation – including ‘processed meat, red meat, organ meat…refined grains, and high-energy beverages’ among others.
Researchers followed 121,050 adults over 26 years, noting their diets and health status.
Participants were given food frequency questionnaires, which were used to evaluate empirical dietary inflammatory pattern [EDIP] and then compared against incidences of bowel cancer.
The study found that those consuming more foods from the inflammatory list were more likely to get the disease.
There are a number of health risks associated with processed meat
Dr. Fred Tabung, study author and Researcher at the Harvard University TH Chan School of Public Health, said: “Inflammation plays an important role in cancer development, including colorectal cancer.”
The risks for men and women, were different – with body weight also having an impact.
Men eating the most inflammatory foods (red and processed meat) had a 44 percent higher risk of developing the disease than men eating the least inflammatory foods, with overweight and obese men 48 percent more likely.
Women consuming a diet high in these foods had a 22 percent increased risk.
Researchers averaged out the results to 32 percent overall – around a third.
Although aspirin can be anti-inflammatory, the study’s lead author Dr. Fred Tabung suggests dietary tweaks is the best option.
He said: “We don’t know who will or who won’t [suffer side effects from taking aspirin] but we can say for sure that diet is a safer option, if we can change to diets that do not contribute inflammation to the body.”
This healthier diet would mean less red and processed meat, as well as less sugary soda, and more leafy green veg.
He added: “This all points to the opportunity that we have in diet, body weight and physical activity. These are all lifestyle factors that, if intervened on at any time could lead to much higher health benefits.”