A large new study suggests that people who skip meat most of the time are less vulnerable to colorectal cancer. Although previous studies have produced similar results, this is by far the largest.
How Did Scientists Study People Who Skip Meat?
The data come from more than 470,000 participants in the UK Biobank (BMC Medicine, Feb. 24, 2022). None had cancer at the beginning of the study, and all filled out detailed dietary questionnaires. There were four categories: people who ate meat regularly, people who ate it rarely, people who ate fish rather than meat, and vegetarians. More than half of the volunteers (247,571) said they eat meat regularly. However, a relatively large number said they are people who skip meat most of the time (205,385). The UK also has a share of pescatarians (10,696) and some vegetarians (8685). The questionnaires did not distinguish between vegetarians and vegans, who avoid dairy products, eggs and honey as well as meat, poultry and fish.
What Do the Data Show?
The researchers tracked these volunteers for an average of 11 years. Analysis showed that people who rarely or never ate meat were less likely to be diagnosed with cancer during that time. Specifically, vegetarian women had a 18 percent lower likelihood of postmenopausal breast cancer. In addition, pescatarian or vegetarian men were 20 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer. In addition, people who skip meat habitually had a 9 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer than meat-eaters. This was especially clear for men rather than women.
The authors point out that more slender people have a lower likelihood of cancer. They believe that this helps to explain the reduced risk of breast cancer among vegetarian women. However, they could not establish whether the lower body weight and healthier lifestyles of pescatarians and vegetarians contribute to their lower chance of cancer. As a result, the investigators call for more research on people who skip meat most or all of the time to determine how they cut their chance of cancer.