Eating red and processed meats has been linked to cancer and appears to be specifically associated with an enhanced risk for colorectal cancer. Based on these findings, both the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research have recommended that cancer survivors limit their consumption of these foods. However, even though people who consume larger amounts of red and processed meats tend to get colorectal cancer at higher rates than those who do not eat these foods, little is known about how continuing to eat these foods following cancer diagnosis affects outcomes.
A new study published in JAMA Network Open has provided some new insights into whether consuming processed red meat affects the likelihood of cancer recurrence or mortality in colon cancer patients. The study investigated more than 1,000 patients with stage III colon cancer, whose ages ranged from 51 to 69 years. Nearly 90% of the patients were white, and 66% were male.
For the study, researchers compared those who consumed unprocessed red meat and those who consumed processed red meat following their cancer diagnosis. The results showed that neither eating habit was associated with risk of cancer recurrence or death.
While these results may be comforting for those with colon cancer who continue or who would like to continue to consume red meat, more information is needed to help physicians understand the link between eating both processed and unprocessed red meat and colorectal cancers. In addition, this study focused on patients with stage III cancer and may not generalize to patients at other stages of the disease. White men also accounted for the majority of study participants, and the results may not reflect what would be seen in other patient groups.
Blarigan EL van, Ou FS, Bainter TM, et al. Associations Between Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat With Risk of Recurrence and Mortality in Patients With Stage III Colon Cancer. JAMA Network Open. 2022;5(2):e220145-e220145. doi:10.1001/JAMANETWORKOPEN.2022.0145