Does Red Meat Cause Colon Cancer?

Article courtesy of Forum for Bodybuilding

Of all the foods available that might help lifters build more muscle, red meat is one of the most popular AND one of the most controversial. Beyond the age-old  concerns about heart disease, recent media reports have even linked red meat to colon cancer.

But does read meat really cause colon cancer?

Fortunately, scientists have been interested in this topic for awhile now, and they have some evidence for us.

What Science Says

Dozens of studies have been conducted over the last couple of decades into whether or not red meat causes colon cancer. Most of them have had an epidemiological base, meaning they rely to at least some extent on self-reported eating habits of the participants.

In other words, their conclusions are  not ironclad one way or another. And, in fact, their conclusions do point both ways: some studies indicate that red meat may cause cancer, while others show no relationship between red meat consumption and cancer.

It can be confusing, but taken together, these studies do provide a valuable body of evidence on which to draw conclusions.

That’s exactly what scientists from Exponent Inc., Health Sciences did in 2011 when they surveyed 35 studies into the relation between red meat and colon cancer. They found no statistically significant correlation between red meat consumption and the incidence of colon cancer.

The same researchers, along with those from other organizations, revisited the topic in 2015 and found much the same story. In particular, data from 27 subsequent studies showed no significant correlation between eating red meat and developing colon cancer. The reviewers also point to the consistency problems endemic to epidemiological studies as a potential source of error.

The Bottom Line

So is it safe to eat red meat or not?

When it comes to red meat and colon cancer, there does not seem to be conclusive evidence that eating beef (or other red meat) will cause problems for most people. Given the potential health benefits of red meat — proteincreatine, iron — it seems unwise to completely avoid eating it based solely on the fear of developing colon cancer.

On the other hand, the fact that some studies show a relation between red meat and cancer is cause for some concern and is just one more reason to involve your doctor in your nutrition plans. In particular, be sure to get a physical and ask about red meat before changing your diet, because it’s possible that some people have risk factors that only a doctor can help you identify.

For most lifters, though, red meat can be a safe and helpful protein source if eaten in moderation.


Leave a Response