The Meat-Cancer Link In the Media

2 thoughts on “The Meat-Cancer Link In the Media”

  1. A nice, clear explanation. I agree with you in general. We part ways a bit on the issue of statistical significance. According to the UK National Health Service a UK citizen has a lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer of 5%. Applying the 18% increase for eating processed red meat bumps the lifetime risk to 6%. I am a licensed Professional Engineer used to dealing with studies and numbers. To me a 1% increase over a lifetime disappears into the noise. Then there’s the statement in the Q&A document: “Eating red meat has not yet been established as a cause of cancer.”

    I already eat less meat than I used to for cost and environmental reasons, but color me skeptical on the causal relationship between cancer and processed red meat. Coincidence is not correlation. Correlation is not causation.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Bob! I agree that proving causation in the realm of lifestyle and dietary choice is almost impossible, given all the confounding factors. This is actually why I like the ’61 in a 1000′ explanation better – I feel it takes the individual circumstances into consideration better, though from a purely statistical perspective I guess this is equivalent to a 6% risk, all else equal. Still, I do think that the evidence they present goes beyond mere coincidence as they are reviewing a pretty large number of cohort studies (I believe 18) in addition to 9 case control studies, and the meta-study they cite for the 18% increase (can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3108955/) uses 24 prospective studies for its analysis; while of course it should be analyzed what other lifestyle choices theses studies were able to control for, I think this is a pretty solid dataset from which to derive at least correlation. Again, I guess it’s safe to err on the side of caution and moderation and just reduce the bratwurst consumption a bit, though I agree that the 1% risk increase is very moderate.

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