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Link Between Eating Red Meat & Distal Colon Cancer Seen inn UK Women

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 feces are 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 current 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 online on April 1, 2018 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. The open-access article is titled “Common Dietary Patterns and Risk of Cancers of the Colon and Rectum: Analysis from the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study (UKWCS).”

Co-author Dr. 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 analyze how diet can influence the prevention of cancer. Accurate dietary reporting provides researchers with the information they need to link the two together."

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.

[Press release] [International Journal for Cancer article]