Cancer experts have issued a fresh warning about eating red and processed meat after “the most authoritative report” on the subject blamed them for causing the disease.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is advising people to limit their intake of red meats such as beef, pork and lamb and avoid processed meat such as ham and salami altogether. “Convincing evidence” that both types of meat increase the risk of bowel cancer means people should think seriously about reducing how much they eat, it recommends.

The charity kick-started a global debate in 2007 when it published a study which identified meat as a risk factor for a number of different forms of cancer.

WCRF-funded scientists at Imperial College London led by Dr Teresa Norat studied 263 research papers that have come out since then looking at the role of diet, weight and physical activity in bowel cancer. An independent panel of leading cancer experts then reviewed their conclusions. “For red and processed meat, findings of 10 new studies were added to the 14 analysed as part of the 2007 report. The panel confirmed that there is convincing evidence that both red and processed meat increase bowel cancer risk,” said the report, published recently.

“WCRF recommends that people limit consumption to 500g (cooked weight) of red meat a week — roughly the equivalent of five or six medium portions of roast beef, lamb or pork — and avoid processed meat,” it added. About 36,000 people a year develop bowel cancer in the UK, and some 16,500 die from it. It is the UK's second biggest cancer killer after lung cancer. About 17,000 cases a year (43 per cent) could be prevented if people ate less meat and more fibre, drank less, maintained a healthy weight and kept active, the WCRF says.

Its 850-page report is “the most authoritative ever report of bowel cancer risk”, experts in cancer prevention claim. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

Keywords: Cancerredprocessed meat

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