A recent study found that eating red meat is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, so how does that happen?

And how much is associated with this risk?

What other meats do not increase the risk of colon cancer?

At the beginning, we will address the recent study, and the new data it provided, and then we will provide tips for consuming red meat, and other types of meat that do not cause colon cancer, and then we will conclude with information about colorectal cancer and its symptoms.

A new study has found that red meat consumption may enhance mutations associated with DNA damage in colorectal cancer patients, according to a statement on the American Association for Cancer Research website.

The study was published in the "Cancer Discovery" journal, and was reported by websites and agencies such as Agence France-Presse, Deutsche Welle and the French magazine L'Obs.

The study found that genetic mutations - which indicate DNA damage - were associated with increased consumption of red meat and increased cancer-related deaths in patients with colorectal cancer.

What's new in the study:

  • showed a direct molecular link between red meat and colon cancer.

  • She explained the mechanism called "alkylation", which is a form of DNA damage.

  • It showed that this association is more with colorectal cancers that have a certain type of mutation.

To identify genetic changes associated with eating red meat, researcher Marius Giannakis, MD, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and colleagues analyzed DNA sequences from normal and matched colorectal tumor tissues from 900 colorectal cancer patients.

Analysis of the DNA sequencing data revealed the presence of several mutations in normal and cancerous colon tissue, including alkylation.

Alkylation was closely associated with eating processed or unprocessed red meat, but not with eating poultry or fish or with other lifestyle factors.

The researchers identified the KRAS and PIK3CA genes as potential targets of the alkylating mutation, and found that colorectal tumors harboring KRAS G12D or Kras G13D mutations (KRAS G13D) or PIK3CA E545K, which are commonly seen in colorectal cancer, have more alkylating compared to tumors without these mutations.

Alkylation was also associated with patient survival. Patients whose tumors had the highest levels of alkylating damage had a 47 percent greater risk of colorectal cancer-related death compared to patients with low levels of damage.

"Our study first identified an alkylating mutational signature in colon cells and linked it to red meat consumption and carcinogenic mutations," Giannakis said. These results suggest that red meat consumption may cause alkylating damage that leads to carcinogenic mutations in the KRAS and PIK3CA genes, thus promoting colorectal cancer development.” Also, eating red meat is a risk factor for colorectal cancer, and also provides opportunities to prevent, detect and treat this disease.

Giannakis explained that if doctors could identify individuals with a genetic predisposition to accumulating alkylating damage, these individuals could be advised to limit red meat intake for prevention.

In addition, the alkylating mutational signature can be used as a biomarker to identify patients at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer or to detect cancer at an early stage.

However, Giannakis noted that future studies are needed to explore these possibilities.

"Eating red meat releases chemical compounds that can cause alkylation," Giannakis explained, and these compounds are caused by iron, which is abundant in red meat, or from nitrates often found in processed meat, according to a statement to Agence France-Presse.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer declared in 2015 that processed meat is carcinogenic, and that red meat may cause cancer to humans.

How much red meat is allowed?

This issue needs to be detailed, as the study in question did not specify a specific number, but the French Press Agency and the newspaper Lobes said that high levels of alkylating were observed only in tumors of patients who ate an average of more than 150 grams of red meat per day.

On the other hand, the National Health Service in Britain (NHS) has a more strict opinion, and a clear and clear recommendation, as on its page on “red meat and the risk of bowel cancer” it says that eating a lot of red meat and processed meat increases the risk of developing bowel cancer (colon cancer and rectal cancer). ).

That's why it's recommended that people who eat more than 90 grams (cooked weight) of red and processed meat per day reduce the amount to 70 grams or less, which she says may help reduce the risk of bowel cancer.

An example is red meat

  • beef

  • Mutton

  • veal

  • Deer meat

  • Goat meat

Examples of processed meat (meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or by adding preservatives):

  • sausage.

  • Cold meats like salami.

  • Mortadella.

  • Canned meats such as corned beef.

  • Luncheon steaks, including chicken and turkey.

That is, the processed meat recommended to reduce includes processed poultry meat as well.

What types of meat are not associated with an increased risk of colon cancer?

  • chicken

  • Turkey

  • ducks

  • geese

  • bird meat

  • rabbit meat

  • fish

This is all provided that it is eaten fresh. As for processed meats such as chicken mortadella and smoked fish, they are processed meat, and they are not included in this list, and it is recommended to reduce them and treat them like processed meat.

How can you reduce your intake of red meat daily?

  • Eat smaller portions of red and processed meat.

  • Replace red meat with chicken and fish.

  • If you eat more than 90 grams of red and processed meat on a given day, you can eat less on the following days, or avoid eating red meat at all on other days, so that the average amount you eat per day is no more than 70 grams.

And you must remember that reducing red meat is one of the factors that protect against colon cancer, while other factors include eating a healthy diet, enjoying activity, and seeing a doctor for a periodic review and examinations.

What is colon cancer?

A tumor that affects the large intestine, which is a part of the intestine that comes after the small intestine, and it usually starts from gatherings of cells resembling the fruit of a mushroom (mushroom) called adenomatous polyps, and it may occur either in the colon or in the rectum, which is the last part of the large intestine which leads to the anus.

The average length of the large intestine is about 1.5 meters, and it transports the remains of digested food from the small intestine to the anus to be expelled from the body, and it absorbs water and salts from the remains of the digested food, and plays a role in the balance of salts in the body. defecate;

Cancer occurs when changes occur in the genetic material of the cells "DNA" (DNA) in the colon, which turns them from normal to cancerous cells that multiply in an uncontrolled way and do not die.

Colon cancer usually arises from tissues in a condition called "precancerous", that is, it is not cancer but usually turns into a malignant tumor later.

These tissues are considered benign tumors, called polyps, but after a while they develop from a benign tumor (ie, an abnormal growth of cells, but it is stable and does not expand or spread) to a malignant tumor, that is, cancer.

Heredity has an important aspect in colon cancer, as there are mutations in the genes that are passed from parents to children.

Therefore, the doctor may recommend that if you are from a family in which one of the members of the colon cancer was previously diagnosed, you should do more regular examinations than other people.

colon cancer symptoms

  • Change in bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea.

  • A change in stool consistency.

  • The presence of blood in the stool.

  • Anal bleeding.

  • Constant stomach upset and discomfort, or gas.

  • Feeling after going to the bathroom that the bowels have not been completely emptied of waste.

  • Fatigue and exhaustion.

  • Unusual weight loss.

risk factors

  • Age, most cases of colon cancer occur after the age of 50, and although a person may develop it before this age, the incidence is lower.

  • If you have been diagnosed with polyps in the intestine.

  • If you've had colon cancer before, you're at risk of it coming back (recurring).

  • Infections of the intestine, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

  • Having a family history of disease or polyps.

  • Eat a diet low in dietary fiber and high in fat.

  • Lead a sedentary and inactive lifestyle.

  • obesity;

  • diabetes

  • smoking.

  • drinking wine.


  • Do a periodic examination of the colon starting from the age of 50, but if you are in the category that has a high risk of disease, you should start periodic examination of the colon at the age of 45 or even earlier, according to the doctor’s recommendations, as diagnosing the disease in its beginning helps to increase the possibility of recovery.

    If, during the examination, the doctor finds benign polyps in the intestine, he may remove them before they develop into cancer.

  • If you are in a high-risk group, your doctor may prescribe medications and treatments to reduce your risk.

    See a doctor and discuss prevention and treatment options.

  • Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, to provide your body with minerals, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants that may play a role in preventing cancer.

  • Don't drink wine.

  • Quit smoking.

  • Exercise most days of the week for 30 minutes a day.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.