Eating even a moderate amount of red meat, including ham and bacon, is linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer, experts have warned.
A new study, part-funded by Cancer Research UK, found people sticking to NHS guidelines on red and processed meat consumption still had an increased risk of bowel cancer, compared to those who ate less.
The research found that people who consumed an average of 76 grams per day of red and processed meat had a 20 per cent higher risk of bowel cancer compared with those who ate 21 grams per day.
Cancer Research UK’s health information officer, Katie Patrick, told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “No matter how much red meat you have, if you take a few small steps to cut down you will reduce your risk further.
“We’re not saying everyone should become vegetarian or you can never have red or processed meats but you should think about how often and how much you are eating.
“The consumption of red and processed meat seems to be decreasing, but there are products that aren’t so it’s about awareness and giving people tips and tricks to help them cut down.”
Ms Patrick suggested meat free days and switching red meat for chicken or fish to help reduce the risks of bowel cancer.
Around one in every 15 men and one in every 18 women will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime.
Experts examined data from 475,581 people aged 40 to 69 and followed them for an average of 5.7 years, during which 2,609 developed bowel cancer.
The risk for red meat only was 15 per cent higher for people who ate 54 grams per day on average compared with those who had eight grams per day.
For those who only ate processed meat, the bowel cancer risk was 19 per cent higher if there was an average consumption of 29 grams per day - equivalent to one rasher of bacon or a slice of ham - compared with those who had an average of five grams per day.
Words by Wesley Hudson