Bowel Cancer Risk Lowered by Reducing Consumption of Red, Processed Meat

People should consider cutting down the amount of red and processed meat they eat to reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer, the U.K. government said.

People who consume more than about 90 grams (3.2 ounces) a day are at greater risk of getting bowel cancer, which kills 16,500 people in Britain every year, the Department of Health said, urging them to reduce their intake to 70 grams. Forty-two percent of men eat more than 90 grams every day on average, compared with 12 percent of women.

“Red meat can be part of a healthy balanced diet. It is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals, such as iron, selenium, zinc and B vitamins,” Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies said in a statement. “But people who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down. The occasional steak or extra few slices of lamb is fine, but regularly eating a lot could increase your risk of bowel cancer.”

The government issued the recommendation after the U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition published a study today concluding that there would be no significant decrease in iron in the British population’s diet if meat consumption was cut to the British average of 70 grams a day.

A 70-gram portion is equivalent to one lamb chop, two slices of roast meat or six slices of salami, the Department of Health said.

“We’re not saying men can’t occasionally enjoy a bacon sandwich or some sausages for breakfast -- but the evidence tells us we need to think about cutting down on how much red and processed meat we’re eating,” Peter Baker, the chief executive of the Men’s Health Forum, a London-based charity, said in the statement. “This is a health benefit surely worth giving up a few sausages for.”

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