Tens of thousands of cancer cases could be prevented each year if people ate less red meat and added more fiber to their diets, according to a report released Monday.

The 850-page report, from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the UK’s World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), is the latest in the two groups’ Continuous Update Project. It supports a 2007 report that linked red meat (beef, lamb or pork) and processed meat (smoked, cured or salted meat) with an increased risk of colon cancer.


This new report, which adds 263 research papers to the 749 examined in 2007, has prompted the WDRF and AICR to say the evidence for the meat-cancer link has gone from “probable” to “convincing.”

The two groups recommend limiting weekly consumption of red meat to about five or six medium portions and to avoid processed meats.

The scientists said the benefits of food containing fiber in reducing cancer risk are also clearer, with seven recent studies supporting the previous eight in recommending a diet that includes more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. 

Professor Alan Jackson, chair of the WCRF/AICR Continuous Update Project (CUP) Expert Panel, said: “Our review has found strong evidence that many cases of bowel cancer are not inevitable and that people can significantly reduce their risk by making changes to their diet and lifestyle.”

The American Meat Institute, which didn’t like the 2007 study, was equally skeptical of the newest report and urged consumers to view it likewise.


 “While WCRF is claiming these studies strengthen their recommendations, in reality, they simply increase the report’s shortcomings,” said AMI Foundation president James H. Hodges in a prepared statement.  “Adding more weak studies to a weak report does not make a ‘strong, comprehensive and authoritative report’ as they claim.” 


AMI cited recent U.S. government data indicating that Americans consume red and processed meat at levels recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, established by the U.S. Dept. of Heath and Human Services and the USDA.

The CUP report and a summary, including the CUP panel’s conclusions, are available for download at http://www.wcrf.org/cancer_research/cup/index.php