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Meta-analysis of prospective studies of red meat consumption and colorectal cancer

Alexander, Dominik D.; Weed, Douglas L.; Cushing, Colleen A.; Lowe, Kimberly A.

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The relationship between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer (CRC) has been the subject of scientific debate. To estimate the summary association between red meat intake and CRC and to examine sources of heterogeneity, a meta-analysis of prospective studies was conducted. Thirty-four prospective studies of red meat and CRC were identified, of which 25 represented independent nonoverlapping study populations. Summary relative risk estimates (SRREs) for high versus low intake and dose–response relationships were calculated. In the high versus low intake meta-analysis, the SRRE was 1.12 (95% CI: 1.04–1.21) with significant heterogeneity (P=0.014). Summary associations were modified by tumor site and sex. The SRREs for colon cancer and rectal cancer were 1.11 (95% CI: 1.03–1.19) and 1.19 (95% CI: 0.97–1.46), respectively. The SRREs among men and women were 1.21 (95% CI: 1.04–1.42) and 1.01 (95% CI: 0.87–1.17), respectively. The available epidemiologic data are not sufficient to support an independent and unequivocal positive association between red meat intake and CRC. This conclusion is based on summary associations that are weak in magnitude, heterogeneity across studies, inconsistent patterns of associations across the subgroup analyses, and the likely influence of confounding by other dietary and lifestyle factors.

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