Cutting meat out of the diet reduces the risk of bowel cancer, especially if you eat fish as well as vegetables, a study has shown.
Scientists analysed rates of colon and rectal cancer – both forms of bowel cancer – in a study population of 77,659 men and women.
Compared with meat-eaters, vegetarians had a 22 per cent reduced risk of bowel cancer, a 19 per cent lower risk of colon cancer and a 29 per cent lower risk of rectal cancer.
Vegans, who consume no animal products including eggs and dairy foods, had a 16 per cent reduced risk of bowel cancer.
Pescetarians, who avoid meat but eat fish, appeared to derive the greatest benefit from their diet with a 43 per cent lower likelihood of developing bowel cancer compared with carnivores.
Semivegetarians, who allow occasional meat into their diet also reduced their risk, but only by eight per cent.
The study authors, led by Dr Michael Orlich, from Loma Linda University in the US, wrote in the journal Jama Internal Medicine: “If such associations are causal, they may be important for primary prevention of colorectal cancers.
“The evidence that vegetarian diets similar to those of our study participants may be associated with a reduced risk of colo-rectal cancer, along with prior evidence of the potential reduced risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and mortality, should be considered carefully in making dietary choices and in giving dietary guidance.”