Red Meat and Cancer: What’s The Beef?

Roast beef cooked under high heat
Roast beef cooked under high heat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With a nod to Oprah, I’ll say it: Please (beef industry), don’t sue me! Today, let’s take a brief look at the relationship between red meat and various cancers.

Prostate cancer: Positive association between prostate cancer and high intake of red meat cooked at high temperatures, pan-fried, or well-done.

Pancreas cancer: No link to red or processed meat or fish; possible link to high consumption of poultry.

Bladder cancer: Processed meats may raise risk.

Esophagus cancer: Studies of studies (meta-analyses) appear to increase risk. Higher fish intake lowers risk.

Lung cancer: High red meat intake increases risk (by 35%).

Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer): Fish reduces risk.

Kidney cancer: Red meat increases risk for renal cell carcinoma.

Breast cancer: Not consistently linked to meat intake.

Uterus cancer: Modest association between heme iron, total iron, and liver intake (not with red or processed meats). Other studies have not linked red or processed meat with uterus cancer.

In summary, red meat is one dietary factor that can increase your risk of getting certain cancers. In future blogs, we’ll dive a bit deeper to better understand the association, and what you can do to lower risk. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.


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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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