Red Meat & Colon Cancer in Women: What’s the Connection?
Despite it being the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, colorectal cancer is not as widely recognized as breast or lung cancers, particularly in women. However, health screening promotion for women is just as important for this disease, especially in those who regularly eat meat. Here is a look at what the latest research says about women and colon cancer, and what you can do to protect your health.
What the Study Tells Us
Last month, the University of Leeds released a study which looked at the relationship between red meat consumption and colon cancer. Over the course of 17 years, they followed 32,000 women who routinely included red meat in their diet and found that during that time, 335 received a diagnosis of colon cancer. Of those diagnosed, 119 had distal colon cancer, the type of cancer that affects the part of the colon that stores feces. This number was higher than the rate of those who did not include red meat in their diet, favoring poultry, fish, or vegetarian based meals instead.
Numerous studies have long associated red and processed meat with higher rates of colon cancer, but this study, fresh out of the United Kingdom, is the first to focus specifically on women. While more research is needed to confirm the relationship between women’s eating habits and colon cancer, it does appear that there is a link between red meat and distal colon cancer in particular. This early research seems to argue what we have known all along – less red meat is better for everyone!
How to Protect Yourself
The American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund International have recently suggested that those wanting to decrease their risk of colon cancer should keep their red meat consumption limited to roughly one pound per week. However, even with a well-controlled diet, strategies of primary health care like routine screening cannot go ignored.
Doctors should begin regular health screening services for colon cancer when their patients reach age 50, but in many cases (like those with a family history of colon cancer, or those diagnosed with Crohn’s or inflammatory bowel disease), screening should begin earlier. It is possible for colon cancer to begin without symptoms, making routine screening one of the most important life-saving choices you can make for your health.
Most people are familiar with screening methods like the colonoscopy, and for some women, the fear of the procedure is enough to deter them from screening altogether. However, there are many different types of tests that can check colon health, including those that rely on point of care medical devices. For women, the topic of screening for colon cancer should be as routine of a conversation with their doctor as those about cholesterol screening and mammographies.
The medical community is finding more links between red meat consumption and colon cancer all the time, and now we know women are no exception. Start working towards prevention today by reducing red meat and adding more poultry, fish, and vegetables to your diet. Don’t forget to partner with health screening companies too! You can make choices to cut your risk today!