Yes Or No: Does Red Meat Cause Colon Cancer?

A man leaning over a grill full of steak and smiling


( — Does eating red meat increase the risk of dying from heart disease or cancer? It’s a question that keeps coming up, fueled by research and high-profile campaigns by advocacy groups on both sides of the debate. Following are some answers about disease risk, health benefits, and what role red meat should play in the diet.

1. Does eating red meat increase the risk of cancer and heart disease?

For heart disease, the answer is pretty clear. Some red meats are high in saturated fat, which raises blood cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease. When it comes to cancer, the answer is not so clear. Many researchers say they do raise the risk, especially for colorectal cancer.

A recent study of more than a half-million older Americans concluded that people who ate the most red meat and processed meat over a 10-year-period were likely to die sooner than those who ate smaller amounts. Those who ate about 4 ounces of red meat a day were more likely to die of cancer or heart disease than those who ate the least, about a half-ounce a day. The meat industry contends there is no link between red meat, processed meats, and cancer, and says that lean red meat fits into a heart-healthy diet.