Meat and Cancer – Position Statement
The term "meat' encompasses a variety of foods, including unprocessed red meat (beef, veal, pork and lamb), processed meat, poultry and fish. Processed meat differs from unprocessed red meat in that it may be cured with the addition of preservatives and/or other additives.
The relationship between meat consumption and the risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer, has been controversial. The consumption of red meat and processed meat appears to be convincingly associated with a modest increased risk of colorectal cancer.
There is limited suggestive evidence that red meat may be associated with an increased risk of oesophageal, lung, pancreatic and endometrial cancer, and processed meat with oesophageal, lung, stomach and prostate cancer. There does not appear to be a strong association between red meat or processed meat and the risk of other cancers.
There is insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions on poultry intake and cancer risk.
For fish consumption, there is limited but suggestive evidence that it may be linked to a reduced risk of breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.
Despite the concerns about meat and cancer, Cancer Council recognises that lean red meat is an important contributor to dietary iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein in the Australian diet.
Cancer Council recommends people consume moderate amounts of unprocessed lean red meat. A moderate amount of meat is 65-100g of cooked red meat, 3-4 times a week. Cancer Council also advises people to limit or avoid processed meats such as sausages, frankfurts, salami, bacon and ham, which are high in fat and salt. People should also try to limit their consumption of burnt or charred meat. It is best to choose lean cuts of meat and chicken, eat more fish and plenty of plant based foods such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals.
Meat and Cancer Position Statement