Meta-analysis of animal fat or animal protein intake and colorectal cancer

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1402-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26838. Epub 2009 Mar 4.


Background: In the recent World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research report of diet and cancer, it was concluded that there is limited but suggestive evidence that animal fat intake increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

Objective: To clarify this potential relation, we conducted meta-analyses across a variety of subgroups, incorporating data from additional studies.

Design: Analyses of high compared with low animal fat intakes and categorical dose-response evaluations were conducted. Subgroup analyses, consisting of evaluations by study design, sex, and tumor site were also performed.

Results: Six prospective cohort studies with comprehensive dietary assessments, contributing 1070 cases of colorectal cancer and approximately 1.5 million person-years of follow-up, were identified. The summary relative risk estimate (SRRE) for these studies was 1.04 (95% CI: 0.83, 1.31; P for heterogeneity = 0.221) on the basis of high compared with low intakes. When data from case-control studies were combined with the cohort data, the resulting SRRE was 1.15 (95% CI: 0.93, 1.42) with increased variability (P for heterogeneity = 0.015). In our dose-response analysis of the cohort studies, no association between a 20-g/d increment in animal fat intake and colorectal cancer was observed (SRRE: 1.02; 95% CI: 0.95, 1.09). In a separate analysis of 3 prospective cohort studies that reported data for animal protein or meat protein, no significant association with colorectal cancer was observed (SRRE: 0.90; 95% CI: 0.70, 1.15).

Conclusion: On the basis of the results of this quantitative assessment, the available epidemiologic evidence does not appear to support an independent association between animal fat intake or animal protein intake and colorectal cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Dietary Fats*
  • Dietary Proteins*
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Humans
  • Meat*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated