A new large-scale study funded by the World Cancer Research Fund and Cancer Research UK discovered that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer when compared to eating meat, including fish. The Oxford-based researchers looked into the link between diet and cancer risk by analyzing data from over 472,000 British adults collected from the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010.
This comes just a few weeks after the European Parliament urged the EU to promote a plant-based diet to combat cancer. Meatless diets participants reported how frequently they ate meat and were divided into four categories based on their diet type, as follows: Group 1: Meat eaters on a regular basis (those who ate meat more than five times a week)Group 2 consists of a small number of meat-eaters (those who ate meat five times or less per week)Pescatarians are the third group (those who ate fish and plant-based food)Vegetarians are in Group 4. (diets free of all meat)All participants were cancer-free when they were recruited, and they were followed for more than 11 years to see if any developed. During the course of the study, 12% of the participants, or 54,961 people, developed cancers ranging from prostate cancer to postmenopausal breast cancer.
Being a low meat-eater was associated with a 2% lower risk of cancer when compared to regular meat-eaters. Meanwhile, pescatarians had a 10% lower risk and vegetarians had a 14% lower risk of developing cancer.
Cancer classifications terms of specific cancer types, the researchers discovered: When compared to regular meat-eaters, low-meat eaters had a 9% lower risk of developing bowel cancer. Compared to meat-eaters, vegetarian women were 18% less likely to develop postmenopausal breast cancer. Men who were vegetarian had a 31% lower risk of prostate cancer. Men who ate fish had a 20% lower risk of prostate cancer. While the researchers discovered that being a low meat-eater, pescatarian, or vegetarian was associated with a lower risk of all cancers, smoking and body mass index may also play a role.