Meat Consumption and Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies

Int J Cancer. 2006 Dec 1;119(11):2657-64. doi: 10.1002/ijc.22170.


Accumulating epidemiologic evidence indicates that high consumption of red meat and of processed meat may increase the risk of colorectal cancer. We quantitatively assessed the association between red meat and processed meat consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer in a meta-analysis of prospective studies published through March 2006. Random-effects models were used to pool study results and to assess dose-response relationships. We identified 15 prospective studies on red meat (involving 7,367 cases) and 14 prospective studies on processed meat consumption (7,903 cases). The summary relative risks (RRs) of colorectal cancer for the highest vs. the lowest intake categories were 1.28 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.15-1.42) for red meat and 1.20 (95% CI = 1.11-1.31) for processed meat. The estimated summary RRs were 1.28 (95% CI = 1.18-1.39) for an increase of 120 g/day of red meat and 1.09 (95% CI = 1.05-1.13) for an increase of 30 g/day of processed meat. Consumption of red meat and processed meat was positively associated with risk of both colon and rectal cancer, although the association with red meat appeared to be stronger for rectal cancer. In 3 studies that reported results for subsites in the colon, high consumption of processed meat was associated with an increased risk of distal colon cancer but not of proximal colon cancer. The results of this meta-analysis of prospective studies support the hypothesis that high consumption of red meat and of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors