Eating less processed meat reduces bowel cancer risk – new study shows

  • New research shows 8,500 bowel cancer deaths per year could be prevented if people stop eating processed meat
  • This study comes during World Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Prevention Action Week (running until 26 February)
  • It adds further weight to World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendation to eat little, if any, processed meat

23 February 2023

World Cancer Research Fund is highlighting findings from a new study that looked into the impact of reducing processed and red meat consumption on bowel cancer risk.

The study conducted in Germany1., calculated the impact over a 30-year period (2020-2050). It showed that if processed meat was completely removed from the diet, this would significantly reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer – with 6,000 cases prevented among men and 2,500 among women per year.

The study2. also found that almost 220,000 cases of bowel cancer could be prevented between 2020 and 2050 if processed meat was taken out of diets completely.

Eat little, if any, processed meat

Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, and in 2019, over 44,000 cases of the disease were diagnosed.

A previous report from World Cancer Research Fund and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) showed that, among regular processed meat eaters, each 50g increased the risk of bowel cancer by 16%.

The study’s findings support World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendation to eat little, if any, processed meat wherever possible.

Dr Panagiota Mitrou, Director of Research and Innovation at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

These findings further highlight that regularly eating processed meat can significantly increase the risk of bowel cancer. That is why this Cancer Prevention Action Week we are encouraging people to reduce how much processed meat they eat to help lower their risk of this common cancer.

Prof. Dr. Hermann Brenner at German Cancer Research Center and Study Author, said:

These findings underline by how much the burden of bowel cancer could be reduced by less consumption of processed meat. The findings demonstrate the large potential of dietary habits for cancer prevention – and show a high number of preventable cancer cases if people significantly cut down on processed meat.



1.Using German population data
2.This is a simulation study that shows the projected decrease in bowel cancer cases associated with eating less processed meat over a 30-year period

For more information and media enquiries contact: Marianne Kellner, PR & Media Officer, WCRF at

Notes to editors

The research was funded by the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Aging Research, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).

About Cancer Prevention Action Week

World Cancer Research Fund is releasing this previously unpublished research to coincide with Cancer Prevention Action Week (20-26 February), which this year raises awareness of the link between processed meat and increased bowel cancer risk. WCRF is encouraging the British public to swap out the processed meat in their sandwiches with healthier, affordable options.

World Cancer Research Fund’s quiz tests people’s knowledge of processed meat.

About World Cancer Research Fund

World Cancer Research Fund examines how diet, nutrition, body weight and physical activity affect your risk of developing and surviving cancer. As part of an international network of charities, we have been funding life-saving research, influencing global public health policy, and educating the public since 1982. While society continues searching for a cure, our prevention and survival work is helping people live longer, happier, healthier lives – free from the devastating effects of cancer. and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

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