Red meat consumption and risk of cancers of the proximal colon, distal colon and rectum: the Swedish Mammography Cohort

Int J Cancer. 2005 Feb 20;113(5):829-34. doi: 10.1002/ijc.20658.


Although there is considerable evidence that high consumption of red meat may increase the risk of colorectal cancer, data by subsite within the colon are sparse. The objective of our study was to prospectively examine whether the association of red meat consumption with cancer risk varies by subsite within the large bowel. We analyzed data from the Swedish Mammography Cohort of 61,433 women aged 40-75 years and free from diagnosed cancer at baseline in 1987-1990. Diet was assessed at baseline using a self-administered food-frequency questionnaire. Over a mean follow-up of 13.9 years, we identified 234 proximal colon cancers, 155 distal colon cancers and 230 rectal cancers. We observed a significant positive association between red meat consumption and risk of distal colon cancer (p for trend = 0.001) but not of cancers of the proximal colon (p for trend = 0.95) or rectum (p for trend = 0.32). The multivariate rate ratio for women who consumed 94 or more g/day of red meat compared to those who consumed less than 50 g/day was 2.22 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.34-3.68) for distal colon, 1.03 (95% CI 0.67-1.60) for proximal colon and 1.28 (95% CI 0.83-1.98) for rectum. Although there was no association between consumption of fish and risk of cancer at any subsite, poultry consumption was weakly inversely related to risk of total colorectal cancer (p for trend = 0.04). These findings suggest that high consumption of red meat may substantially increase the risk of distal colon cancer. Future investigations on red meat and colorectal cancer risk should consider cancer subsites separately.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colon
  • Colonic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rectal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Rectum
  • Risk Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology