Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States and the third most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men and women (CDC 2003). The risk for developing colorectal cancer increases with age (90 percent of cases occur in individuals over 50) and with personal or familial predisposition to cancer. Numerous studies over the years also show connections between lifestyle factors-such as eating a diet high in saturated fat and low in fruits and vegetables, smoking and not exercising regularly-and the incidence of this cancer. However, the links between certain dietary factors and the risk of colorectal cancer remain contentious. Meat consumption, in particular, emerges as an arena of debate among epidemiologists. It is difficult to separate meat consumption from other confounding factors that strongly affect colorectal cancer risk, such as obesity and physical inactivity, and studies report disparate findings on the statistical relationship between meat eating and cancer. Furthermore, researchers are unsure what exactly it is about meat, and particularly red meat, that may increase cancer risk. Studies have been conducted on iron and fat content, the presence of carcinogenic nitrates in processed meats, methods of cooking meat and genetic susceptibility in an attempt to locate a direct connection. Finally, it is difficult to ascertain accurate information related to meat consumption in retrospective studies, and the wide variety of potential exposures addressed in cohort studies on cancer may make it difficult to isolate meat consumption as a risk factor.
International Journal of Global Health and Health Disparities
©2005 International Journal of Global Health and Health Disparities
"Colorectal Cancer and Meat Consumption: Recent Views from Epidemiology,"
International Journal of Global Health and Health Disparities, 4(1), 63-73.
Available at: https://scholarworks.uni.edu/ijghhd/vol4/iss1/8