Vegetarians have a Lower Cancer Rate than Regular Meat-Eaters
I always find it amusing when I’m reading nutrition propaganda from someone using outdated information and they say something like, “As far back as [date], we knew that…” And so it disappoints me to have to do the same thing right now: As far back as June, we knew that vegetarians had a lower cancer rate than regular meat-eaters; it’s just that it’s taken me until now to update VeganHealth.org and post about it.
And, why am I saying “regular meat-eaters” rather than just “meat-eaters”? Because, in this report from EPIC-Oxford (1), the people who ate no meat other than fish had an even lower cancer rate than the vegetarians, in comparison to the regular meat-eaters. Here are the rates as compared to regular meat-eaters:
Vegetarians .88 (.81, .96)
Fish-eaters .82 (.73, .93)
Now before anyone says that fish-eaters, therefore, had a lower cancer rate than the vegetarians, let me point out that a cursory glance at those confidence intervals indicates to me that there would not be a statistically significant difference if you compared the vegetarians to the fish-eaters; but the study did not report testing for that.
When breaking the cancers down into categories, in comparison to the regular meat-eaters, the vegetarians had lower rates of stomach (.36, .16-.78), bladder (.47, .25-.89), and lympthatic & hematopoietic tissue (.55, .39-.78) cancer. They had a higher rate of cervical cancer (2.08, 1.05-4.12).
In comparison to the regular meat-eaters, the fish-eaters had lower rates of colorectal (.77, .53-1.13), prostate (.57, .33-.99), and ovarian (.37, .18-.77) cancer. They didn’t have a higher rate of any cancer.
So, can we now say that vegetarians have a lower rate of cancer than meat-eaters? Well, fish-eaters are meat-eaters, so that might be kind of hard. We could say that vegetarians have a lower rate of cancer than chicken eaters.
To see more of the numbers and details, as well as results from other studies on vegetarians and cancer rates, click here.
1. Key TJ, Appleby PN, Spencer EA, Travis RC, Allen NE, Thorogood M, Mann JI. Cancer incidence in British vegetarians. Br J Cancer. 2009 Jul 7;101(1):192-7. Epub 2009 Jun 16.