Adapted from the NCI Cancer Bulletin.
A new analysis of participants in a large European cohort study shows a significant association between a type of gastric (stomach) cancer and meat consumption, but primarily in men and women infected with the bacteria H. pylori.
The study, published in the March 1, 2006, issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (see the journal abstract), involved more than 521,000 men and women in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. With a mean follow-up of 6.5 years, there were 330 cases of gastric adenocarcinoma and 65 cases of esophageal adenocarcinoma.
The researchers reported a statistically significant positive association between total meat intake - which includes fresh red meat, processed red meat, and poultry - and cancer in the lower portion of the stomach, called gastric noncardia cancer. Every 150-gram increase in total meat intake showed a 2.5-fold increase in risk. A statistically significant positive association was also seen with red meat intake and processed meat intake.
"All of these associations seemed to be restricted to the H. pylori-infected subjects," the researchers, led by Dr. Carlos A. Gonzalez from the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain, wrote. There was no such association seen for gastric cardia cancer, which occurs in the top 2 to 3 centimeters of the stomach. There also was a nonstatistically significant association between total meat intake or processed red meat intake and esophageal adenocarcinoma, the cancer with the most quickly increasing incidence rate in the United States.
H. pylori infection is considered a risk factor for gastric cancer. But the authors argued that "other, unknown factors must play a role in [gastric] cancer risk because, although the intake of red meat has increased in most European countries during the last decades, the prevalence of H. pylori infection and the incidence of gastric noncardia cancer have decreased over the same period."