Updated WCRF Report Confirms, Strengthens Evidence for Risk of CRC from Red and Processed Meat

Graph of Preventable Colorectal CancersNo more than 18 ounces of red meat a week and no processed meat at all!

That’s the recommendation of the World Cancer  Research Fund’s Continuous Update Project  for 2011.

Based on new evidence, the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s Continuous Update Project  (CUP) report also upgraded evidence for dietary fiber decreasing colorectal cancer risk from probable to convincing.

The CUP  found convincing evidence that physical activity reduces risk of getting colorectal cancer.  Research is also convincing that alcoholic drinks for men, fat carried around the waist,  and overall fatness increase risk.

Probably garlic, milk, and calcium supplements protect against colorectal cancer, while alcoholic drinks for women increase risk.

For colorectal cancer, the 2011 Continuous Update Project confirmed and expanded the WCRF/AICR’s 2007 Expert Report–  Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective.

In addition to the 749 studies reviewed by the panel in 2007, and additional 263 research results looking at colorectal cancer risk and diet, exercise, and weight were added to the 2011 update.

Dr. Elisa Bandera, who is a member of the WCRF/AICR CUP  said,

AICR has estimated that about 45 percent of colorectal cancer cases could be prevented if we all ate more fiber–rich plant foods and less meat, drank less alcohol, moved more and stayed lean. That’s over 64,000 cases in the US every year.

Dr. Bandara continued,

Many people feel confused about cancer prevention because it can seem like a new study is published every week that suggests something either causes or prevents cancer.

But the CUP takes the latest scientific findings and adds them to the existing body of evidence in a systematic way that ensures our advice takes the latest research into account. This means people can be confident that AICR’s recommendations represent the most up–to–date, evidence–based information on cancer prevention available.

In conclusion, the Panel judged,

  • The evidence that physical activity protects against colon cancer is convincing. The evidence that consumption of foods containing dietary fibre protects against colorectal cancer is convincing. The evidence that red meat, processed meat, ethanol from alcoholic drinks (by men, and probably by women), as well as body fatness and abdominal fatness, and the factors that lead to greater adult attained height, or its consequences, are causes of colorectal cancer is convincing.
  • Consumption of garlic, milk, and calcium, probably protect against this cancer.
  • The evidence that non-starchy vegetables, fruits and foods containing vitamin D protect against colorectal cancer, and that foods containing iron, and also cheese, foods containing animal fats, and foods containing sugars are causes of this cancer is limited. Evidence for foods containing folate, fish, and selenium and foods containing it is less consistent and no conclusion could be drawn.

SOURCE: World Cancer Research Fund, Continuous Update Project, New Publications on Colorectal Cancer.  Download PDF Reports.

What This Means for Patients

Diet, exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight reduce risk of getting colorectal cancer.  They do not eliminate it.

Even if you follow the WCRF/AICR recommendations for diet and exercise, you still need to:

  • Be screened regularly for colorectal cancer.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer and have a colonoscopy to rule out cancer if you have symptoms.

While colorectal is cancer is more common in people over 50, anyone at any age can get colorectal cancer.


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