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PlaNet News & Views

Posted on 29-10-07

Cancer Risks Line-up Is The Usual Suspects
By Alan Marston, October 28, 2007
The biggest sections of the industrial-food industry are finally starting
to be challenged by researchers. A group of world renowned scientists will
warn this week eating red meat and drinking alcohol in even small
quantities increases the risk of developing cancer and they recommend the
obvious conclusion that minimising consumption of both is wise in order to
minimise the cancer risk. The research is the biggest inquiry ever
undertaken into lifestyle and cancer. Added to the food-cancer linkage is
the conclusion by a major global report by the World Cancer Research Fund
that the millions of people who are now obese are running as great a risk
of getting cancer as smokers do.
The findings from a panel of 21 experts in diet, nutrition and public
health will reopen the debate around the role that red meat such as beef,
pork and lamb and alcoholic drinks play in causing cancer, and how much it
is safe to consume. The livestock and drink industries are likely to
object fiercely to the report but the researchers have spent five years
producing the document and insist their recommendations are based on the
most up-to-date, accurate and credible scientific and medical research
evidence available worldwide.
'The bad guys in terms of increasing your chances of getting cancer are
alcohol, meat consumption and being seriously overweight,' said one senior
figure behind the report. 'There's plenty of evidence showing that clearly
meat is linked to cancer. Huge numbers of studies have shown that. Alcohol
also increases your risk of cancer. Any alcohol above zero increases your
risk of developing breast cancer and other cancers.'
The report will set out 10 detailed recommendations which the scientists
believe are a definitive blueprint for how those seeking to avoid cancer
should live. The 10 will cover: body fatness; physical activity; foods and
drinks that promote weight gain; plant foods, notably fruit and
vegetables; animal foods, particularly meat; alcoholic drinks; the
preservation, processing and preparation of food; dietary supplements;
lactation and breastfeeding; and cancer survivors.
One of the panel, Professor David Shuker, of the Open University, said:
'We know that red meat increases your risk of bowel cancer. We might say
that it's just like cigarette smoking. So if you are concerned about bowel
cancer you would come to the conclusion, supported by the evidence, that
one should reduce one's consumption of red meat.' The research showed that
eating as little as 100g of red meat a day increases the risk of
developing cancer, Shuker said. But the WCRF is likely to reaffirm this
week that it believes people should consume as little as 80g per day for
health reasons. The Food Standards Agency does not specify a 'safe' figure
for meat-eating. But a spokeswoman said its view was that people should
'eat meat in moderation and choose leaner cuts'.
The report is also likely to say that men should have no more than two
drinks per day, and women just one, if they want to reduce their cancer
risk, in line with the government's advice on safe drinking limits.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot, chair of the expert panel, said
last night that diet was a factor in one third of all cancer cases:
'People are suffering and dying because they get cancer from being obese.'