Why Eating a Lot of Red Meat May Raise Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Red meat intake has long been associated with the development of colorectal cancer, but scientists are now one step closer to understanding why. A recent study has discovered a genetic variant found in one of every three people that significantly increases the risk of colorectal cancer from red meat consumption. These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics.

The study, which was led by Ulrike Peters of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, evaluated 9,287 participants with colorectal cancer and 9,117 individuals without the disease. Over 2.7 million genetic variants were examined to determine their reaction to consumption of red meat and processed meat. Among the study’s participants, those with this specific genetic variant showed a much higher risk of developing colorectal cancer from consuming processed meat.

While it’s clear that genetics plays a significant role in determining your risk of colorectal cancer, it is still important to maintain a healthy diet to keep your risk as low as possible. Lead author Jane Figueiredo, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California, adds, “…we are not saying that if you don’t have the genetic variant that you should eat all the red meat you’d like. People with the genetic variant allele have an even higher increased risk of colorectal cancer if they consume high levels of processed meat, but the baseline risk associated with meat is already pretty bad” (Source: USC News).

Colorectal cancer remains the third most common form of cancer, affecting 150,000 new individuals every year and claiming 50,000 lives annually. There are several precautions that can greatly lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. They include:

• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Eating a diet high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables
• Avoiding a high fat diet
• Limiting alcohol
• Avoiding tobacco
• Staying physically active
• Having routine colonoscopies after age 50 (Source: