The great Australian Christmas tradition of throwing some sausages and a few lumps of meat on the barbecue could be increasing our risk of getting cancer, according to a new study by the US National Cancer Council reported in The Australian.
The study of 500,000 Americans between the age of 51 and 70 found those that reported eating the most red and processed meat were between 20% and 60% more likely to develop a variety of cancers.
The 20% of those surveyed who ate the most processed meat were 20% more likely to suffer from colorectal cancer and 16% more likely to get lung cancer.
Among those people who ate the most red or processed meat, 10% of colorectal or lung cancers would have been avoided if they had adopted a more vegie-oriented diet.
But the people who fell into the high risk category did eat quite a lot of meat – about a quarter of a kilo worth each day. People who ate a more moderate 140 grams per day do not have an increased risk for most cancers.
Australian Cancer Council chief executive Ian Olver said while the study is credible, the cause of the correlation between meat consumption and cancer remain unclear.
“We don’t know whether it’s the fatty content, though we know with barbecued meat there are cancer-causing chemicals in meat because barbecueing and creating charcoal causes more of those chemicals as part of burning the meat,” Olver said.