While reading a lot of uncited or badly cited popular science literature, I came across the claim that consuming red meat increases the risk of cancer. Said literature also claims in seemingly unrelated articles that being fat increases the risk of cancer. It's not really a long shot to presume that people who overindulge on red meat might also be fat. And it might be quite reasonable to presume that a lot of these people also eat too much acrylamide through the fries served with the red meat.

Is there any scientific evidence that states that a lean athlete who consumes red meat regularly, as a good source of lean protein, increases his risk of cancer? Maybe some kind of study that compares highly physical active people against the general population?


2 Answers 2


Though this is a bit off topic, I was interested so I did some research. There are a number of scholarly articles on the subject (actually, this is a just a small subset -- look for yourself). Let me summarize some for you:

Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies: (source)

Red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, CVD, and cancer mortality. Substitution of other healthy protein sources for red meat is associated with a lower mortality risk.

Dietary lean red meat and human evolution: (source)

Lean meat is a healthy and beneficial component of any well-balanced diet as long as it is fat trimmed and consumed as part of a varied diet.

Red meat intake and cancer risk: a study in Italy: (source)

For none of the neoplasms considered was there a significant inverse relationship with red meat intake. Thus, reducing red meat intake might lower the risk for several common neoplasms.

Meat intake and cause-specific mortality: a pooled analysis of Asian prospective cohort studies: (source)

Ecological data indicate an increase in meat intake in Asian countries; however, our pooled analysis did not provide evidence of a higher risk of mortality for total meat intake and provided evidence of an inverse association with red meat, poultry, and fish/seafood. Red meat intake was inversely associated with CVD mortality in men and with cancer mortality in women in Asian countries.

Red meat and colorectal cancer: a critical summary of prospective epidemiologic studies: (source)

Colinearity between red meat intake and other dietary factors (e.g. Western lifestyle, high intake of refined sugars and alcohol, low intake of fruits, vegetables and fibre) and behavioural factors (e.g. low physical activity, high smoking prevalence, high body mass index) limit the ability to analytically isolate the independent effects of red meat consumption. Because of these factors, the currently available epidemiologic evidence is not sufficient to support an independent positive association between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer.

My Conclusions

I think what you're getting at is summarized well in the last excerpt. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to get a control group for a study that would conclusively answer your question. The evidence presented in the "Asian" and "Italian" studies seems to suggest there is no correlation. I chose these articles because of their geographical elements. It seems like European and Asian lifestyles don't correlate as strongly to diet-related cancers as American lifestyles (as the studies suggest).

There seems to be too little evidence to really draw any absolute conclusions. As the saying goes: correlation does not infer causation. It seems that lifestyle is the real killer here.


My search results cannot produce any scientific studies of the kind you seek.

However, the best explanations for the link between red meat and cancer (http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Red-meat-and-colon-cancer.shtml), suggest that the link is not body fat. Eating lean portions would not make much difference. Fibre seems to moderate the cancerous effect of red meat. I speculate that exercising might help a bit, because it speeds up peristalsis.

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