PRESS RELEASE
N° 165
15 June 2005 

Eat less meat, more fish!

A study published in the June 14, 2005 issue(1) of the JNCI confirms earlier reports that high levels of consumption of red and processed meat are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, and that high levels of fish consumption are associated with a decreased risk.

Drs Elio Riboli and Teresa Norat, of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, and colleagues used data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC, http://epic.iarc.fr), a cohort of over half a million Western Europeans, to examine the associations between intakes of red and processed meat, poultry, and fish and colorectal cancer risk.

Over a mean follow-up of 5 years, 1,329 cases of colorectal cancer were documented. In the study population, there was a 35% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer in those individuals who consumed the highest quantities of red and processed meat, compared with subjects with the lowest consumption.

Said Dr Teresa Norat: "At the same time, the risk of developing colorectal cancer was 31% lower among individuals with the highest fish consumption compared with subjects in the lowest category of fish consumption!" There was no association between poultry consumption and colorectal cancer risk.

The present study shows that the reduction in risk associated with fish consumption and the increase in risk associated with increased red meat consumption are independent from each other.

"Further," said Dr Riboli, the Coordinator of the European-wide EPIC study, "the association of meat and fish consumption with colorectal cancer risk was independent from the reduction in risk associated with dietary fiber consumption that was observed in the same study population."

The IARC Director, Dr Peter Boyle, noted that "colorectal cancer is the second most frequent cancer in men, after lung cancer, and in women, after breast cancer. In 2002, over one million cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed around the world, and over half a million persons died from this disease. This finding is a further step in improving understanding of the aetiology of colorectal cancer and could lead to improved prospects for prevention", he concluded.

Contacts: Dr Elio Riboli, IARC Nutrition and Cancer Group,

Dr Dr Gaudin, IARC Communications,

(1) Norat T. et al.: Meat, Fish and Colorectal Cancer Risk: The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 97; No.12, 2005.

World Health Organization
International Agency for Research on Cancer

Organisation mondiale de la Santé
Centre international de Recherche sur le Cancer

150, cours Albert-Thomas 69372 Lyon Cedex 08 (France)
Telephone: 33 472 738 485     Facsimile: 33 472 738 311     http://www.iarc.fr