Just like the supposed connection between saturated fat intake and heart disease, there is a lot of discussion and study around the potential connection between red meat intake and the development of colon cancer. Do a search for “red meat and colon cancer” on PubMed, and you’ll get hits for hundreds of studies. Like most subjects of nutritional studies, the conclusion varies from study to study, with some researchers concluding red meat causes cancer and others concluding that it’s processed meats that are causing issues, and others still finding no connection.
In this comprehensive review, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, researchers looked at the available epidemiologic prospective studies of red meat intake and colorectal cancer. The authors noted that due to variables such as dietary factors (e.g. intake of refined sugar, fruits, vegetables, fiber) and behavioral factors (e.g. low physical activity, smoking, obesity, etc.), it’s difficult to separate out the effects caused by eating red meat. They conclude that the current evidence is insufficient to support a positive correlation between red meat and colorectal cancer.
Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer: A Critical Summary of Prospective Epidemiologic Studies, Obesity Reviews, Volume 12, Number 5, May 2011, pp. e472- e493(22). doi: 10.1111/j.1467- 789X.2010.00785.x