New Study Finds Meat as Big a Cancer-Causer as Smoking

OK.  What's the biggest cause of cancer?  If you guessed smoking, you'd be right.  But if you guessed meat, you'd be right, too.

A multicountry study just published finds that smoking, diets rich in animal products, and alcohol have the strongest correlations with cancer incidence rates, according to  

This study is an ecological study in which incidence rates for the various types of cancer for males and females from 87 countries with high quality cancer incidence rate data as well as all 157 countries with cancer incidence rate data were compared statistically with indices for various risk modifying factors.'

The animal products index included meat, milk, fish, and eggs. 

"For the 87 countries with high quality cancer data, the smoking and animal products indices explained over half of the cancer incidence rates, with alcoholic beverage supply explaining a smaller amount," reports.  Surprisingly, in men, the smoking index was twice as important as the animal product index, while for females, the animal product index was twice as important. "And these two factors explained 70% of the variation in all cancer less lung cancer rates between countries."

The types of cancer for which animal products had the strongest correlation include female breast, kidney, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, testicular, thyroid cancer, and multiple myeloma. The reason why animal products increase the risk of cancer is most likely because animal products promote growth of the body as well as tumors through production of insulin-like growth factor, the study found. 

"For example, older Japanese are generally shorter than Westerners while younger Japanese are about as tall as Westerners. The traditional Japanese diet derived 10% of its calories from animal products, primarily seafood. Japan has made the nutritional transition to the Western diet, with 20% of the calories derived from animal products," the Web site notes. Depressingly, rates of cancer types common in Western countries rose considerably in Japan during the past 20-30 years.

Recently, observational studies on younger women found that meat was a risk factor for breast cancer.

Commenting on the study, Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee and on the faculty of the George Washington University School of Medicine, said at, "This is an important study showing strong relationships between meaty diets and cancer risk.


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