Going meat free for one week creates a fantastic opportunity to get people thinking about how much meat they eat and the impact that consuming too much meat may have.
Studies show bowel cancer risk increases by 12% per 100g of red meat consumed per day and by 16% per 50g of processed meat consumed per day.
Consuming wholegrains and foods containing dietary fibre however, has been shown to decrease the risk of bowel cancer.
Meat and bowel cancer risk
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, released a recent report regarding the relationship between bowel cancer and the consumption of red meat and processed meat.
Based on a review of scientific literature, the IARC Working Group concluded that the consumption of processed meat is classified as having the potential to cause cancer, or ‘carcinogenic’, to humans (Group 1), while the consumption of red meat is classified as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) first reported in 2011 that there was convincing evidence to show that the risk from red meat and processed meat consumption in relation to bowel cancer was real. The WCRF repeated the warning again in their 2017 report.
In recognition of the evidence cited by the WCRF, Bowel Cancer Australia recommends limiting the consumption of red and processed meat, to reduce the risk of bowel cancer.
Red meat and bowel cancer
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) state that consuming more than 500 grams of cooked red meat per week carries an increased risk for bowel cancer.
What is considered red meat?
Most scientific sources describe red meat as meat from cattle, lamb (or game meat) and pork. The WCRF definition regards red meat as any meat that comes from domesticated cattle, pigs, sheep and goats; but not poultry, fish or meat from wild animals.
What is considered processed meat?
Processed meat is defined by the IARC as any type of meat that is salted, cured or smoked for flavouring or preservation, and usually contains pork or beef, but may also include poultry.
How does red meat increase the risk of developing bowel cancer?
Science is still unsure whether it is the iron, the type of fat, the pH of the meat or other factors that contribute to an increased risk of bowel cancer from red and processed meat.
However, the process of barbequing and charring red and processed meat increases bowel cancer risk.
According to the WCRF, red meat contains haem, which promotes the formation of potentially carcinogenic compounds.
When red meat is cooked at high temperatures or burnt, it changes the chemical composition creating three potentially harmful compounds:
• polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
• heterocyclic aromatic amines, and
• N-nitroso compounds.
The production of these compounds can cause bowel cancer in people with a genetic predisposition, according to the WCRF.
What does Bowel Cancer Australia recommend?
• Consume less than 500g of cooked red meat a week, very little if any to be processed.
• Cook meat carefully. Don’t char or blacken meats when BBQing.
• Partly cook meat inside to reduce cooking times on open flames, grills or BBQs.
• Keep cooking temperatures low and use marinades to protect meat from burning.
To find out more, check out our Diet and Lifestyle healthy tips.
Meat Free Week
Bowel Cancer Australia's vision is to have an everlasting impact on our health future - one where no Australian dies from bowel cancer.
Through awareness and education, we aim to increase health knowledge and empower people to be advocates for their own health. By participating in Meat Free Week, we hope people will consider portion sizes, if including meat as part of a balanced diet, during the other 51 weeks of the year, to reduce their bowel cancer risk.
Meat Free Week gives people the perfect opportunity to try out new plant-based foods, get more fruits and veggies in their meals and see whether a meat-reduced diet is for them, even if it's just one day a week or one week a year.
For vegetarians and vegans, the week provides a great chance to share some of their favourite meat-free recipes with friends and family - all for a wonderful cause!
Leading chefs and foodies have provided a range of delicious meat-free recipes to help participants get the most out of Meat Free Week, as well as lots of great information pieces on the benefits of plant-based foods.
Everyone is invited to take the Meat Free Week challenge and discover how easy it is to make little changes that can create a big difference.
Sign up for Meat Free Week and raise funds for a great cause today!
Not able to participate, but still want to help make real change happen? Make a donation today
If you're already living meat free, there are still plenty of ways you can get involved in Meat Free Week too.
Meat Free Week participants can raise funds in support of Bowel Cancer Australia’s vital bowel cancer prevention programs, to help save lives and to improve the health and wellbeing of people living with and beyond bowel cancer.
Participants can also sign up to fundraise for our Meat Free Week charity partners Meat Free Monday, World Animal Protection, Sustainable Table, Bowel Cancer New Zealand and Colorectal Cancer Canada.
Sign up for the challenge today and help create real change.