Meat subtypes and their association with colorectal cancer: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Int J Cancer. 2016 Jan 15;138(2):293-302. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29423. Epub 2015 Feb 24.


Associations between specific red meat subtypes and risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) have been investigated in a number of epidemiological studies. However, no publication to date has summarised the overall epidemiological evidence. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies (cohort, nested case-control or case-cohort studies), which reported relative risk (RR) estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between intake of meat subtypes with colorectal, colon or rectal cancer or colorectal adenoma risk. PubMed and ISI Web of Science were searched up until August 1, 2014. Nineteen studies examined meat subtypes (5 beef, 5 pork, 2 lamb, 1 veal and 19 poultry) and associations with colorectal, colon or rectal cancer risk and 4 studies examined associations with adenoma risk (1 beef and 4 poultry). Comparing highest versus lowest intake, beef consumption was associated with an increased risk of CRC (RR = 1.11, 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.22) and colon cancer (RR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.07 to 1.44), but no association was found with rectal cancer (RR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.78 to 1.16). Higher consumption of lamb was also associated with increased risk of CRC (RR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.08 to 1.44). No association was observed for pork (RR = 1.07, 95% CI = 0.90 to 1.27), but some between study heterogeneity was observed. No association was observed for poultry consumption and risk of colorectal adenomas or cancer. This meta-analysis suggests that red meat subtypes differ in their association with CRC and its sub sites. Further analysis of data from prospective cohort studies is warranted, especially regarding the role of pork.

Keywords: colorectal cancer; meat subtypes; meta-analysis; poultry; red meat.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Red Meat / adverse effects*
  • Sheep