Controversy on the correlation of red and processed meat consumption with colorectal cancer risk: an Asian perspective

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(21):3526-3537. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2018.1495615. Epub 2018 Sep 10.


This study aimed to investigate the relationship between meat intake and colorectal cancer risk from an Asian, particularly Korean, perspective. A report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published in 2015 concluded that intake of processed and red meat increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. We conducted an in-depth analysis of prospective, retrospective, case-control and cohort studies, systematic review articles, and IARC monograph reports, which revealed that the IARC/WHO report weighted the results of studies based in Western countries more and that the correlation between intake of processed meat products and colorectal cancer incidence in Asians is not clearly supported. Among 73 epidemiological studies, approximately 76% were conducted in Western countries, whereas only 15% of studies were conducted in Asia. Furthermore, most studies conducted in Asia showed that processed meat consumption is not related to the onset of cancer. Moreover, there have been no reports showing significant correlation between various factors that directly or indirectly affect colorectal cancer incidence, including processed meat products types, raw meat types, or cooking methods. Further epidemiological studies taking each country's food culture into consideration are required to reliably elucidate the effects of processed meat product intake, especially on cancer incidence.

Keywords: Safety assessment; cohort study; colorectal cancer; meat consumption.

MeSH terms

  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Asian People
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Meat Products
  • Meat*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Red Meat
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors