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A recent large-scale prospective cohort study has reported a protective association between diets that are free of red meat and the development of distal colon cancer. The United Kingdom Women’s Cohort Study (UKWCS) is a large-scale prospective study comprising more than 32,000 women. Women were surveyed between 1995 and 1998 and followed up thereafter for a mean of 17 years.

In multivariate analysis, there was no evidence for an overall reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer when comparing groups who had a red meat free diet versus those that ate red meat  (HR = 0.86, 95% CI: 0.66-1.12). However initial analysis suggests that there was a reduced risk of distal colon cancer (HR = 0.56, 95% CI: 0.34-0.95) in groups who reported a red meat free diet.

Although the number of cases in this study was small, the data is consistent with previous meta-analyses which have shown a positive association between high intake of red meat and processed meat and an increased risk of colorectal cancer, colon and rectal cancer. The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) has previously classified red meat as a “probable carcinogen to humans” and processed meat as a “carcinogenic to humans” .


Int J Cancer. 2018 Mar 8 (online). Common dietary patterns and risk of cancers of the colon and rectum: Analysis from the United Kingdom Women's Cohort Study (UKWCS).

Rada-Fernandez de Jauregui D, Evans CEL, Jones P, et al

Distal colon cancer linked to red meat consumption

(April 2018)