Red, Processed Meat Cause Cancer, Study Finds

LONDON ~ Obese people have a higher risk of certain kinds of cancer, according to a report this week that finds that red meat and processed meats cause bowel cancer.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) report, based on analysis of some 7,000 cancer studies from around the world, said there was “convincing” evidence that excess fat can cause breast, bowel and pancreatic cancer.

“We are recommending that people aim to be as lean as possible within the healthy range, and that they avoid weight gain throughout adulthood,” said Professor Michael Marmot, who chaired the panel that drew up the report.

“This might sound difficult but this is what the science is telling us more clearly than ever before. The fact is that putting on weight can increase your cancer risk, even if you are still within the healthy range.

The 360-page report, available at and launched in London, lists specific cancer risks for a range of foodstuffs.

For vegetables and fruit there were no “convincing” evidence of a link to particular cancers, it said, but for meat and fish there were clear indications of increased risks.

“The strongest evidence, corresponding to judgments of ‘convincing’ and ‘probable,’ shows that red meat and processed meat are causes of colorectal cancer,” said the report.

The findings will fuel particular concern amid signs of increasing obesity levels in the Western world.

According to recent government-backed forecasts, 60 percent of men, 50 percent of women and a quarter of children in Britain will be obese by the year 2050. In 2004, nearly a quarter of men and women in England were obese.

The report, including recommendations by a panel of 21 experts, found a strong link between fat around the abdomen and bowel cancer, and a “probable” connection between body fat and gall bladder cancer.

“So the best advice for cancer prevention is to avoid weight gain, and if you are already overweight then you should aim to lose weight,” said Marmot.

Clinical obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more, where BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by height in metres squared.

Normal weight corresponds to a BMI of 18.5-24.9, while 25-29.9 is “overweight.”

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