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Ann Oncol. 2017 Aug 1;28(8):1788-1802. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdx171.

Foods and beverages and colorectal cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies, an update of the evidence of the WCRF-AICR Continuous Update Project.

Author information

Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Imperial College London, London.
Division of Biostatistics, Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.



As part of the World Cancer Research Fund International Continuous Update Project, we updated the systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies to quantify the dose-response between foods and beverages intake and colorectal cancer risk.

Data sources:

PubMed and several databases up to 31 May 2015.

Study selection:

Prospective studies reporting adjusted relative risk estimates for the association of specific food groups and beverages and risk of colorectal, colon and rectal cancer.

Data synthesis:

Dose-response meta-analyses using random effect models to estimate summary relative risks (RRs).


About 400 individual study estimates from 111 unique cohort studies were included. Overall, the risk increase of colorectal cancer is 12% for each 100 g/day increase of red and processed meat intake (95% CI = 4-21%, I2=70%, pheterogeneity (ph)<0.01) and 7% for 10 g/day increase of ethanol intake in alcoholic drinks (95% CI = 5-9%, I2=25%, ph = 0.21). Colorectal cancer risk decrease in 17% for each 90g/day increase of whole grains (95% CI = 11-21%, I2 = 0%, ph = 0.30, 6 studies) and 13% for each 400 g/day increase of dairy products intake (95% CI = 10-17%, I2 = 18%, ph = 0.27, 10 studies). Inverse associations were also observed for vegetables intake (RR per 100 g/day =0.98 (95% CI = 0.96-0.99, I2=0%, ph = 0.48, 11 studies) and for fish intake (RR for 100 g/day = 0.89 (95% CI = 0.80-0.99, I2=0%, ph = 0.52, 11 studies), that were weak for vegetables and driven by one study for fish. Intakes of fruits, coffee, tea, cheese, poultry and legumes were not associated with colorectal cancer risk.


Our results reinforce the evidence that high intake of red and processed meat and alcohol increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Milk and whole grains may have a protective role against colorectal cancer. The evidence for vegetables and fish was less convincing.


alcohol; cancer; dairy; grains; meat; meta-analysis

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