Meat intake, cooking methods, dietary carcinogens, and colorectal cancer risk: findings from the Colorectal Cancer Family Registry

Cancer Med. 2015 Jun;4(6):936-52. doi: 10.1002/cam4.461. Epub 2015 Apr 7.


Diets high in red meat and processed meats are established colorectal cancer (CRC) risk factors. However, it is still not well understood what explains this association. We conducted comprehensive analyses of CRC risk and red meat and poultry intakes, taking into account cooking methods, level of doneness, estimated intakes of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that accumulate during meat cooking, tumor location, and tumor mismatch repair proficiency (MMR) status. We analyzed food frequency and portion size data including a meat cooking module for 3364 CRC cases, 1806 unaffected siblings, 136 unaffected spouses, and 1620 unaffected population-based controls, recruited into the CRC Family Registry. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for nutrient density variables were estimated using generalized estimating equations. We found no evidence of an association between total nonprocessed red meat or total processed meat and CRC risk. Our main finding was a positive association with CRC for pan-fried beefsteak (P(trend) < 0.001), which was stronger among MMR deficient cases (heterogeneity P = 0.059). Other worth noting associations, of borderline statistical significance after multiple testing correction, were a positive association between diets high in oven-broiled short ribs or spareribs and CRC risk (P(trend) = 0.002), which was also stronger among MMR-deficient cases, and an inverse association with grilled hamburgers (P(trend) = 0.002). Our results support the role of specific meat types and cooking practices as possible sources of human carcinogens relevant for CRC risk.

Keywords: Colorectal cancer; heterocyclic amines; mismatch repair proficiency; pan-fried meat; red meat.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cattle
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Cooking / methods
  • Cooking / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Meat Products / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Poultry
  • Registries
  • Swine
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Carcinogens