In recent years, research has linked red meat consumption to a variety of health problems such as heart failureaccelerated aging, and Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study from the United Kingdom suggests that a diet including red meat may be associated with an increased risk of a type of colon cancer in women. The paper titled ‘Common dietary patterns and risk of cancers of the colon and rectum: Analysis from the United Kingdom Women’s Cohort Study’ was published in the International Journal of Cancer on 01 April 2018.

Researchers from the University of Leeds examined a cohort study to find out whether red meat, poultry, fish or vegetarian diets are associated with the risk of colon and rectal cancer. It was found that regular consumption of red meat was linked to higher rates of distal colon cancer. The National Cancer Institute defines the distal colon as the last part of the colon which includes the descending colon (the left side of the organ) and the sigmoid colon (the part of the colon which connects to the rectum).

“The impact of different types of red meat and dietary patterns on cancer locations is one of the biggest challenges in the study of diet and colorectal cancer,” said lead author Dr. Diego Rada Fernandez de Jauregui. He is a part of the Nutritional Epidemiology Group (NEG) at Leeds and the University of the Basque Country in Spain.

“Our research is one of the few studies looking at this relationship and while further analysis in a larger study is needed, it could provide valuable information for those with family history of colorectal cancer and those working on prevention,” Dr. Jauregui added.

The data was obtained from the United Kingdom Women’s Cohort Study, which consisted of 32,147 women from England, Wales, and Scotland. The participants were recruited by the World Cancer Research fund between 1995 and 1998 and were tracked for an average of 17 years.

In total, 462 colorectal cases were documented. Among the 335 colon cancers, 119 instances were of distal colon cancer. The analysis suggested a reduced risk of distal colon cancer in women who consumed red meat-free diets. The study concluded that the association of red meat-free diets specifically on distal colon cancer merits confirmation in a larger study.

“Our study not only helps shed light on how meat consumption may affect the sections of the colorectum differently, it emphasizes the importance of reliable dietary reporting from large groups of people,” said co-author Janet Cade, head of the NEG and Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology and Public Health at the School of Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds.

“With access to the United Kingdom Women’s Cohort Study, we are able to uncover trends in public health and analyze how diet can influence the prevention of cancer. Accurate dietary reporting provides researchers with the information they need to link the two together,” she explained.