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Br Med Bull. 2017 Jan 1;121(1):73-81. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldw051.

The cancer risk related to meat and meat products.

Author information

Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, NorwichNR4 7UA, UK.



Meat has been classified by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as carcinogenic to humans. The evidence and the implications for health are reviewed.

Sources of data:

Evidence was obtained from published reports and systematic reviews published before and since the IARC decision.

Areas of agreement:

Epidemiology indicates that processed meat products are associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer. Evidence for red meat and for other cancers remains tentative.

Areas of controversy:

Several mechanisms for mutagenic effects of meat consumption have been identified but it is not clear which cause cancer in humans. The extent to which complete abstention from meat protects against cancer is also uncertain.

Growing points:

Prospective studies on meat consumption in western populations will continue to illuminate the details of carcinogenesis, and effective strategies for reducing risk.

Areas timely for developing research:

Further studies on the precise mechanisms of carcinogenesis in human populations would assist both food manufacturers and the general public to minimize risk.


cancer; meat; processed meat; vegetarianism

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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