Recently, specialists at the University of Leeds studied data from a United Kingdom Women’s Cohort Study of about thirty-two thousand females from different parts of the UK. The World Cancer Research Fund enlisted them for about three years from 1995, and a follow up was carried out for the following 17 years. Researchers found that consistent eating of red meat was connected to higher rates of distal colon cancer in them, a kind of malignancy that affects the last segment of the colon.

People have been consuming red meat for a very long time, and its history can be traced to the very beginning of existence. Whether you want to search for the diet of the Paleolithic men of the stone age and trace it downwards to the modern era that we now live in, one will discover that red meat is a vital part of life. At a time in history, the fact that one can deliver loads of red meat through either hunting or creating traps makes one a person of relevance. So, red meat has been part of the diet of human beings for such a long time, and evolution of the way we live has even given us more creative ways to enjoy red meat. Nowadays, red meat is available in different forms such as burgers, hotdog, bacon, steaks, and sausages.

Definitions of Red Meat and Processed Meat

According to a European cohort research on the relationship between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer, red meat is fresh meat from four-legged animals that are domestically reared. While, in another population of the much bigger American cohort study, the term red meat further incorporates any form of processed meat and this is regarded as ‘total red meat’ in the European investigation.

Processed meats are those that have experienced preservation techniques like fermentation, smoking, or treatment with nitrate/nitrate salt. It principally refers to beef and pork; however, other sorts of meat such as chicken might also be added to the list. The characterizations of red meat and processed meat were not founded on whether they have potential cancer-causing constituents, for example, haem iron, PAHs, HCAs and N-nitroso compounds. The category merely addresses which one is raw and fresh, while the other is processed and preserved.

Potential Carcinogenic Compounds in Red Meat and Processed Meat

Since there is a difference in the way various traditions of the world cooks meat, there was a challenge for the researchers to arrive at a definitive conclusion that is general and sound. Besides, the outcomes of the same dish of red meat in different regions might be influenced by the way the food is prepared. This is very critical to the formation of the cancer-causing constituents, and in light of the fact that different side dishes are eaten with the meat, it may meddle with the potential carcinogenic properties of red meat.

According to a study carried out by Wang and his colleagues in 2015, they discovered that eating a serving (50 g) of processed meat was related with a higher degree of all-cause mortality (RR=1.15, 95% CI 1.11-1.19), cardiovascular mortality (RR=1.15, 95% CI 1.07-1.24) and cancer mortality (RR=1.08, 95% CI 1.06-1.11).

Also, recent investigations by Rohrmann and his colleagues demonstrate that a few confounders influence the outcomes when the impact of red meat or processed meat on ailment/cancer is examined. Variables like age, sex, academic level, BMI, smoking status, alcohol intake, fitness, and consumption of vegetables are potential factors that should be considered.

Chemical carcinogenesis itself requires a few stages. Generally, the chemical compound stimulates DNA destruction in the cells this could bring about mutation in a situation if it isn’t reversed. When the stimulated cell does not experience apoptosis, and it starts to multiply, it eventually leads to cancer, which may progress to malignancy. As the in vivo and the in vitro tests affirm the presence of damaged DNA, mutations in genes connected to cancer, decreased apoptosis in initiated cells, widespread proliferation, the formation of the aberrant crypt- and mucin depleted-foci.

It is inferred that it is likely that haem iron can cause cancer in lab rats in doses applicable to humans as well. Since similar mechanisms take place in the human colon, then it can be presumed that it is likely for haem iron to be a carcinogen to people at similar levels. The presence of clashing proofs from other epidemiological investigations shows that there are different reasons for colon cancer, which are substantially crucial compared to haem iron. Therefore, some evidence confirms the effect of haem iron as a carcinogen, but the potency is most likely at a low level.



HCAs and Colon Cancer

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) alone, or more probably with yet undetected mutagens, produced while heating of the red meat, would be a more qualified factor as a causative agent in the progression of cancer in those who consume red meat. Relieving measures to lessen our consumption of HCAs are realistic, but, this can only be avoided by the people who prepare these red meats at home. This is because heterocyclic amines and benzopyrene, which is a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, are both created in high-temperature and time-dependent conditions during the domestic preparation of red meat.

There is a scope of alleviation measures that diminish the formation of HCAs, such as heating the meat more mildly. Furthermore, Meurillon and Engel proposed that bringing down cooking temperatures, cooking the meat for a shorter duration, and maintaining a strategic consistency, which will not cause any charring of the red meat, is a much better choice. Also, picking milder culinary styles like stewing, stir-frying, broiling the red meat rather than frying, is advisable. Similarly, grilling and oven broiling will bring down the levels of heterocyclic amines. In addition, Meurillon and Engel found that HCAs can bind to dietary fibers and as a result, bring down their bioaccessibility, in this manner decreasing the carcinogenic effect of the HCAs. Therefore, eating red meat with dietary fibers could alleviate the adverse impact of the carcinogenic agents.



It is evident that there is a connection between colon cancer and red meat. There may not have been substantial evidence to prove it, but the evidences show the possibility of its occurrence. However, the doses of the carcinogens when compared to other cancer-causing factors shows hope and promise. The possible prevention lies in having a roasted red meat, without frying it heavily, and accompanying it with vegetables as well as whole grain products that are rich in vitamins and minerals.




Meurillon, M., & Engel, E. (2016). Mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of heterocyclic aromatic amines in proteinaceous foods. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 50, 70–84.

Rohrmann, S., Overvad, K., Bueno-de-Mesquita, H. B., Jakobsen, M. U., Egeberg, R., Tjønneland, A., … Linseisen, J. (2013). Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. BMC Medicine, 11, 63.

Smith, K. (2018). Eating Red Meat Linked to Increased Risk of Distal Colon Cancer in Women. Retrieved from

Wang, X., Lin, X., Ouyang, Y. Y., Liu, J., Zhao, G., Pan, A., & Hu, F. B. (2015). Red and processed meat consumption and mortality: dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Public Health Nutrition, 19(5), 893–905.