Meat and fat consumption and cancer mortality: A study of strict religious orders in Britain

Lancet. 1982 Apr 24;1(8278):946-9. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(82)91943-2.


The close correlations between mortality from breast and colorectal cancers and the per-caput consumption of meat or fat in different countries suggest that these dietary items may be involved in the aetiology of the neoplasms. To investigate further these possible relations a study has been conducted of cancer mortality between 1911 and 1978 in two groups of enclosed religious orders for women: one of 1769 nuns who eat no meat and one of 1044 nuns who eat little meat. Mortality from breast and colorectal cancer was not significantly lower in either group than in the general population. It is difficult to evaluate the small reduction in breast cancer mortality in the no-meat group because of the wide confidence limits. An unexpected finding was an excess mortality from oesophageal cancer in both groups. These findings concern women who reduced their meat consumption in adult life: it is suggested that they are compatible with the evidence put forward to support a role for fat or meat intake in causation of breast cancer if dietary influences in pre-adult life are important. The findings on colorectal cancer point to the aetiological importance in this disease of aspects of diet other than fat or meat intake.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Clergy*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / etiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Rectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Rectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • United Kingdom


  • Dietary Fats