Estimates of the current and future burden of cancer attributable to red and processed meat consumption in Canada Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Red meat and processed meat have been consistently associated with an increased risk of colorectal, stomach, pancreatic cancer and esophageal cancer (processed meat only). The purpose of this analysis was to estimate the current attributable and future avoidable burden of cancer related to red and processed meat consumption in Canada. We estimated the population attributable risk of cancer separately for red meat consumption (beef, lamb, and pork, excluding processed meat) and processed meat consumption (sausage and bacon) incorporating current cancer incidence data, relative risks, and exposure prevalence. We also estimated the future avoidable burden of cancer from 2015 to 2042 for Canada and by province using the potential impact fraction associated with various potential intervention scenarios intended to reduce consumption, ranging from a decrease of 0.2 servings/week to 2.0 servings/week among the adult Canadian population aged 20 and over. The estimated mean red meat consumption in the Canadian population in 2007 to 2011 was approximately 3.2 times per week. In addition, Canadians consume an average of 1.2 times of processed meat per week. In 2015, an estimated 5.9% of associated cancers and 0.9% of all cancers were attributable to red meat consumption. An estimated 4.5% of associated cancers and 0.7% of all cancers were attributable to processed meat consumption. A mean decrease of 0.5 servings/week of red meat or processed meat could prevent about 8700 or 16,600 cancer cases, respectively, between 2015 and 2042. In conclusion, a small but meaningful cancer burden is associated with red and processed meat consumption. Interventions aimed at reducing consumption at the population level have the potential in the prevention of many cancers in Canada.


  • Ruan, Yibing
  • Poirier, Abbey E
  • Hebert, Lauren A
  • Grevers, Xin
  • Walter, Stephen
  • Villeneuve, Paul J
  • Brenner, Darren R
  • Friedenreich, Christine M

publication date

  • May 2019