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Reducing or eliminating meat consumption reduces risk of cancer, study finds

Experts say this diet change can have significant health benefits

Steak and salad on plate
Photo (c) Claudia Totir - Getty Images
Recent studies have revealed how eating less meat may be better for consumers’ health, and now a new study explored how meat consumption may affect cancer risk. According to the findings, eating less meat or cutting it out completely may reduce consumers’ risk of developing cancer. 

“In this large British cohort, being a low meat-eater, fish-eater, or vegetarian was associated with a lower risk of all cancer sites when compared to regular meat eaters,” the researchers wrote

Health benefits of eating less meat

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 472,000 British adults enrolled in the U.K. Biobank between 2006 and 2010. The participants reported how frequently they consumed meat and fish, and the researchers tracked their health over the course of 11 years. 

The study showed that the less meat the participants ate, the lower their risk was of developing cancer. Compared with those who ate meat five times or less per week, vegetarians and vegans were 14% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. Those who ate fish were 10% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer. 

The team also looked at how the participants’ diets impacted the risk of specific cancers. The risk of breast cancer was nearly 20% lower in postmenopausal women who had cut out meat entirely. Similarly, men who were vegetarians were 31% less likely to develop prostate cancer. Those who ate fish but not other types of meat were 20% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those who ate meat five times or less each week were 9% less likely to develop colorectal cancer. 

While the team plans to do more work in this area to better understand how diet affects cancer risk, these findings highlight the effect that meat can have on long-term health outcomes. 

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