Meat consumption and colorectal cancer risk: dose-response meta-analysis of epidemiological studies

Int J Cancer. 2002 Mar 10;98(2):241-56. doi: 10.1002/ijc.10126.


The hypothesis that consumption of red and processed meat increases colorectal cancer risk is reassessed in a meta-analysis of articles published during 1973-99. The mean relative risk (RR) for the highest quantile of intake vs. the lowest was calculated and the RR per gram of intake was computed through log-linear models. Attributable fractions and preventable fractions for hypothetical reductions in red meat consumption in different geographical areas were derived using the RR log-linear estimates and prevalence of red meat consumption from FAO data and national dietary surveys. High intake of red meat, and particularly of processed meat, was associated with a moderate but significant increase in colorectal cancer risk. Average RRs and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the highest quantile of consumption of red meat were 1.35 (CI: 1.21-1.51) and of processed meat, 1.31 (CI: 1.13-1.51). The RRs estimated by log-linear dose-response analysis were 1.24 (CI: 1.08-1.41) for an increase of 120 g/day of red meat and 1.36 (CI: 1.15-1.61) for 30 g/day of processed meat. Total meat consumption was not significantly associated with colorectal cancer risk. The risk fraction attributable to current levels of red meat intake was in the range of 10-25% in regions where red meat intake is high. If average red meat intake is reduced to 70 g/week in these regions, colorectal cancer risk would hypothetically decrease by 7-24%.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Eating
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Meat Products / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors