lovers may have a greater likelihood of developing certain cancers of the
throat and stomach than people who limit their intake of steaks and hamburgers,
a new study suggests.
found that among nearly 500,000 older U.S. adults followed for a decade,
only a small number developed cancers of the esophagus or stomach. However,
the risks were relatively greater among those who ate a lot of red meat,
or certain compounds generated from cooking meat.
study participants in the top 20 percent for red-meat intake were 79 percent
more likely than those in the bottom 20 percent to develop esophageal squamous
cell carcinoma -- a cancer that arises in the lining of the upper part of
the risk of a type of cancer in the upper portion of the stomach near the
esophagus (gastric cardia) was elevated among men and women with the highest
estimated intake of one form of heterocyclic amine (HCA). HCAs are compounds
that form when meat is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as grilling
over an open flame; they have been found to cause cancer in lab animals.
findings, reported in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, do not prove
that red meat promotes the two cancers, the researchers emphasize. But the
results add to what has been an uncertain body of evidence on the link between
red meat and esophageal and stomach cancers.
research review by the World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute
for Cancer Research, both non-profit groups, concluded that red and processed
meats were associated with a "limited suggestive increased risk"
of esophageal cancer.
report also said there was a similar level of evidence for a link between
processed meats and stomach cancer, and insufficient data on whether red
meat intake is connected to the cancer at all. However, most of the studies
considered in the report were so-called case-control studies, where researchers
ask patients with a given disease about their past lifestyle habits and
other health factors, then compare them to a group of healthy individuals.
type of study design can offer only limited evidence about whether a particular
exposure -- like red meat in the diet -- is related to a disease risk, explained
Dr. Amanda J. Cross, a researcher at the U.S. National Cancer Institute
who led the new study.
with prospective designs, which follow initially healthy people over time,
provide stronger evidence. In addition, most earlier research did not look
at meat intake and different subtypes of esophageal and stomach cancers.
That is important, Cross told Reuters Health, because the different subtypes
seem to have different risk factors.
their study, Cross and her colleagues prospectively followed 494,979 U.S.
adults ages 50 to 71 over roughly 10 years. At the outset, participants
completed detailed questionnaires on their diets -- including the methods
they typically used for cooking meat, and the usual level of "doneness"
they preferred -- as well as other lifestyle factors.
the next decade, 215 study participants developed esophageal squamous cell
carcinoma; that included 28 cases among the bottom 20 percent for red-meat
intake, and 69 cases in the top 20 percent.
454 men and women were diagnosed with gastric cardia cancer. There were
57 cases among participants with the lowest red-meat intake, and 113 in
the group with the highest intake.