Meat intake, cooking methods and risk of proximal colon, distal colon and rectal cancer: the Norwegian Women and Cancer (NOWAC) cohort study

Int J Cancer. 2013 Sep 1;133(5):1153-63. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28101. Epub 2013 Mar 29.


Red and processed meat intake is an established risk factor for colorectal cancer (CRC), but epidemiological evidence by subsite and sex is still limited. In the population-based Norwegian Women and Cancer cohort, we examined associations of meat intake with incident proximal colon, distal colon and rectal cancer, in 84,538 women who completed a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) during 1996-1998 or 2003-2005 (baseline or exposure update) at age 41-70 years, with follow-up by register linkages through 2009. We also examined the effect of meat cooking methods in a subsample (n = 43,636). Multivariable hazard ratios (HRs) were estimated by Cox regression. There were 459 colon (242 proximal and 167 distal), and 215 rectal cancer cases with follow-up ≥ 1 (median 11.1) year. Processed meat intake ≥60 vs. <15 g/day was associated with significantly increased cancer risk in all subsites with HRs (95% confidence interval, CI) of 1.69 (1.05-2.72) for proximal colon, 2.13 (1.18-3.83) for distal colon and 1.71 (1.02-2.85) for rectal cancer. Regression calibration of continuous effects based on repeated 24-hr dietary recalls, indicated attenuation due to measurement errors in FFQ data, but corrected HRs were not statistically significant due to wider CIs. Our study did not support an association between CRC risk and intake of red meat, chicken, or meat cooking methods, but a high processed meat intake was associated with increased risk of proximal colon, distal colon and rectal cancer. The effect of processed meat was mainly driven by the intake of sausages.

Keywords: cohort study; colorectal cancer; measurement error; meat; meat cooking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Cooking*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires