Esophageal Cancer is Probably a Carnivore

Esophageal cancer risks may be linked to diets rich in red and processed meats

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Red meat and processed meats have come under fire lately. Diets loaded with hamburgers, pork chops, bacon, hotdogs and pot roast are associated with heart disease and increased risks of certain cancers. 

Analysis of earlier research has concluded that diets high in red and processed meats may increase a person's risks of esophageal cancer.

"Reduce your red and processed meat intake."

Maryam Salehi, of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Mashhad, Iran, and colleagues analyzed the results of 35 studies published between 1990 and 2011.

The researchers were looking for associations between esophageal cancer (EC) and various types of meat. 

Red meats were defined as beef, pork and lamb, while processed meats included bacon, sausage, hot dogs, salami and ham. Cured, salted and preserved meats were also considered processed meat.

Researchers compared highest consumption vs. lowest consumption of various meats and found:

  • Diets rich in red meat were associated with a 40 percent increased risk of EC.
  • Highly processed meat consumption was linked to a 41 percent higher EC risk.
  • People who ate the most poultry had a 13 percent reduced risk of developing EC.
  • Fish eaters had a 20 percent decreased risk of esophageal cancer.

Edward Giovannucci, MD, ScD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, told dailyRx News, “This meta-analysis suggests that people with high intake of red and processed meat might be at increased of esophageal cancer."

He said the study had some problems. "These results are interesting, and support further research, but are limited in that almost all of the evidence is based on studies where diet information was collected after diagnosis of cancer, so biased recollection of diet could have occurred,” said Dr. Giovannucci, who was not involved in the study.

Esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in 18,000 Americans this year, and 15,000 people will die from the disease.

This research was published in the May issue of Nutrition Reviews. The authors had no relevant interests to declare.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 16, 2013
Last Updated:
September 17, 2013