Red and processed meat intake is associated with higher gastric cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiological observational studies

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 14;8(8):e70955. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070955. eCollection 2013.


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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Eating*
  • Epidemiologic Studies*
  • Food Handling*
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Observational Studies as Topic / methods*
  • Risk
  • Stomach Neoplasms / epidemiology*

Grant support

This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 81272504), the Innovation Team (number LJ201123 (EH11)), and Jiangsu Provincial Science and Technology Projects (BK2011854 (DA11)), and “333” Project of Jiangsu Province (BRA2012210 (RS12)), and research grants from Chinese Society of Clinical Oncology (T-H2010-033 (KA10)). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.