Background: Red and processed meat was concluded as a limited-suggestive risk factor of gastric cancer by the World Cancer Research Fund. However, recent epidemiological studies have yielded inconclusive results.
Methods: We searched Medline, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library from their inception to April 2013 for both cohort and case-control studies which assessed the association between red and/or processed meat intake and gastric cancer risk. Study-specific relative risk estimates were polled by random-effect or fixed-effect models.
Results: Twelve cohort and thirty case-control studies were included in the meta-analysis. Significant associations were found between both red (RR: 1.45, 95% CI: 1.22-1.73) and processed (RR: 1.45, 95% CI: 1.26-1.65) meat intake and gastric cancer risk generally. Positive findings were also existed in the items of beef (RR: 1.28, 95% CI: 1.04-1.57), bacon (RR: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.17-1.61), ham (RR: 1.44, 95% CI: 1.00-2.06), and sausage (RR: 1.33, 95% CI: 1.16-1.52). When conducted by study design, the association was significant in case-control studies (RR: 1.63, 95% CI: 1.33-1.99) but not in cohort studies (RR: 1.02, 95% CI: 0.90-1.17) for red meat. Increased relative risks were seen in high-quality, adenocarcinoma, cardia and European-population studies for red meat. And most subgroup analysis confirmed the significant association between processed meat intake and gastric cancer risk.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that consumption of red and/or processed meat contributes to increased gastric cancer risk. However, further investigation is needed to confirm the association, especially for red meat.