Journal Club – 4. Red Meat and Cancer.

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By now you have probably become aware of the headlines linking red and processed meat with cancer. So we will have a closer look at this latest headline catching piece of research for our latest Journal Club. We will meet on Friday 13th November to discuss it. There is a fair bit of reading to do so start early.

The first place to start is with the published paper. However it hasn’t been published yet (this blog was written the day after it made all the news headlines). What we do have is a ‘News Article’ published in the Lancet which you can find below. Start with this article and ask the following questions. What is the big picture? What work does this article build upon? Has it added anything new to the area? From the details given, how confident are you about the claims made? How confident are the authors about the claims made? Should it have been released ahead of the full paper?

Red meat and cancer

Now read the press release and make notes on how accurately it reflects the summary article. It also contains a useful link to a Q&A session on this work which you should look at.

Red meat press release

Finally, have a look at the media reporting of this story. I have provided 2 links but I encourage you to find other examples and share them with us.  Do these articles accurately represent the research? Do they understand the research? Do they help us to understand the research? Do they have their own agenda?

Since our last Journal Club meeting on Sugar causing Diabetes I’d just moved from my 2 slices of toast smothered in jam alongside a glass of breakfast orange to a bacon sandwich and a cup of Bovril. What am I supposed to do now!?

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/cancer-definitely-caused-by-processed-meat-what-you-need-to-know-a6709266.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3284505/Forget-red-meat-likely-bowel-cancer-eating-CHOCOLATE-Leading-colorectal-surgeon-eats-meat-regularly-sugar-true-culprit.html

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9 thoughts on “Journal Club – 4. Red Meat and Cancer.

  1. Journal Club 4
    The article suggests that red and processed meat increases the risk of you getting certain types of cancer e.g. prostate, colorectal. The article bases these statements off studies which found that there is a 17% increase for 100g of red meat per day and 18% increase for 50g of processed meat per day. Therefore red and processed meat has been regarded as carcinogenic. This adds to the never ending list of things that cause cancer. I feel that the claims made are impromptu as the report isn’t out yet so they can’t conclude the report if it isn’t finished yet and they can’t be accurate if the actual report isn’t released yet so it shouldn’t have been released early.
    The article doesn’t give sufficient evidence and only states that the statements are based from decent results which aren’t 100% credible. I think that this is mainly just stating the conclusion of the research and not showing how the scientists got there which is a low level of thinking which makes it harder for the reader to understand. Their agenda may be to produce the most controversial statement from the journal to make it more interesting. Now for people who are skeptic about what they eat, they need to assess the risks and benefits as processed meat may have nutritional benefits as well.

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  2. Red meat and cancer

    The big picture of the journal is to find out whether red mean actually causes cancer and the epigenetics of it. The study tried to find out where in the world has a higher risk of getting cancer when eating red meat. The article builds upon the scientists (who on the 22nd October 2015) that discussed the link between carcinogens from the consumptions of red meat and the risk of getting cancer. The study found that an increase of 100g of red meat will increase your chances of cancer by 17%, however increasing your consumption of processed meat by 50g will increase your risk of cancer by 18%. This therefore provides evidence that processed meat is a higher risk factor of cancer compared to red meat. When consuming these types of meats the methylation of the gene APC increases therefore silencing this gene. I am not very confident on the clams made because the article doesn’t provide any explanation for the statistics it provides therefore you can’t comment on the credibility of it. Personally, I don’t think that the authors are confident because they provide information but they still aren’t sure whether the damage is caused in humans meaning they’re unsure on whether it causes cancer. E.g. “Meat smoked or cooked over a heated surface or open flame contains PAH. These chemicals cause DNA damage, but little evidence exists hat this occurs following meat consumption.” This proves that they don’t have enough information to provide a conclusion and therefore means that they shouldn’t have published this until the full paper was published so they would have sufficient evidence to make a conclusion.
    Personally I think that the press release is quite accurate with relation to the actual summary article because I don’t think that it states anything that the article doesn’t say. For example, the experts concluded that each 50g portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%. Furthermore it quotes what one of the researchers said which therefore means that they haven’t tweaked his words to change the meaning. Therefore making the press release more credible. I also find that they don’t jump to conclusions and say that red meat is bad as they go on to say that red meat also has nutritional value.
    In the article, it talks about the main things that the summary article talked about however it only talks about the negative side that it can cause cancer. It also uses words like ‘definitely’, which will make people think that as soon as you eat red meat then you will get cancer which is completely wrong and the summary article doesn’t say this. In the summary article it says that processed meat will increase your chances of cancer by 18% whereas the news article is saying that it will definitely cause cancer. Yet again blowing scientific journals findings way out of proportion.

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  3. Overall, this is very similar to the research we examined about sugary drinks. I feel that they have made the bold claim that all meats are carcinogenic despite the fact that there is only sufficient evidence for processed meats. While this does have an affect on cancer, it is only a very specific type of cancer while the way that it is portrayed makes it appears that it is all cancers. For me, this still seems to be circumstantial and not strong enough to change my diet over as processed meats have never considered to be healthy. In reference to red meats, I feel that they have over dramatised this.

    Everyone in these articles seem to be very confident about all of there claims despite that fact that the press release only provides evidence about processed meats and therefore the first article should only be able to comment on this.

    The articles are superior to previous articles in that they attempt to be informative while being well written although the article from the mail takes an alternate route of analysis in that it claims meat is not what is dangerous. Although it uses an experts opinion, it is just that – an opinion with no facts. He claims that meat doesn’t have that great an affect on colorectal cancer and it seems as if he should be qualified to do this. I feel that this article is very indicative of what the media is like at this point in time in that it will take any opportunity to present a headline as a definite in order to create interest around a subject.

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  4. Does Red Meat Cause Cancer Or Is It Just Another Entry On The “MUST AVOID” List For The Worlds’ Health Fanatics?

    In the journal the scientists seem quite sure that red meat does cause cancer as they say that it can contain carcinogens depending on where it is from, what circumstances it lived in and how it is then cooked. They believe that a daily 100g intake of red meat will increase the risk of cancer by 17%, yet later they explain that evidence only exists for an increased risk of three types of cancer (prostate is an example) rather than the general umbrella which they initially portray. Although the article does add generalised statistics to the subject it neglects to add anything new to the that argument as many already knew that processed meat was worse for you than red meat and that red meat can be bad for you. It also restates that the already generally avoided methods of cooking, frying, grilling and BBQ, should be avoided for those who don’t want an increase in cancer risk as it can cause the meat to contain carcinogens. I do believe that processed meats are not as good for the human body as normal red meat but this article portrays red meat as being as much a risk to the consumer as processed meat which clearly isn’t the case. Once you read the press release you will understand that the judgements on red meat were made with little evidence and that evidence does not take into account other factors of the participants’ life style which may cause cancer such as smoking or drinking alcohol. From that I can deduce that the author is basing the argument on limited evidence, although I agree that the methods of cooking and processing meat can create carcinogens I disagree that the rise in cancer risk is solely contributed by the consumption of 100g of red meat per day. Finally as ever the media has generalised the paper to state that everything that is consumable under the sun will lead to cancer, red meat is just another entry into the MUST AVOID list for the health fanatics in the world due to a conclusion based on limited evidence.

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  5. The main information portrayed in this article is that there is a positive correlation between high consumption of red and processed meat, and colorectal cancer. Positive correlations were also present with pancreatic and prostate cancer, as well as cancer of the stomach.

    From my additional research, I found that colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK, with around 40,000 new cases every year.

    This study builds upon the work of a meta-analysis published in 2013, which reported a modest but statistically significant association between consumption of red or processed meat and adenomas of the colorectal that was consistent across studies.

    The working group classified consumption of red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Therefore, to me, this appears that the working group can’t be sure their conclusions are correct. Furthermore, out of the 15 studies for red meat, only 7 reported positive correlations between high levels of red meat and colorectal cancer, and only 12 in 18 showed this correlation for processed meat. Therefore, in my opinion, more research needs to be done before these conclusions can be made. However, on the NHS website, one of the possible causes of colorectal cancer is stated as a diet high in red or processed meat, which suggests that the NHS believe this information to be correct. However, they also state that it is not known exactly what causes this cancer, and that this only increases your risk.

    I don’t think this article should have been released ahead of the full paper, as it may have missed things out, or made the findings appear biased. We can’t be sure of the full conclusions until the paper is released.

    I think the press release accurately represents the information portrayed in the summary article. This is because it has used data and quoted directly from the article, and hasn’t manipulated the information in any way. Also, the press release simplifies the facts, rather than including any opinions that could make the data biased.

    In my opinion, the media reporting the story do accurately represent the information, however they do this in a different way. Their headlines and opening paragraphs appear to be biased, which I feel they do in order to draw readers in. Further down the article they appear to contradict their opening statements, and fail to give the readers the facts from the start. The problem is that these journalists will not know much about science, and they simply want to sell papers. Another problem with these articles is that they usually fail to source where they are getting their information from, meaning we cant check if it is correct.

    I have found some other articles on this topic, including this:
    http://www.grubstreet.com/2015/11/grilled-meat-kidney-cancer.html
    Which suggests that red meat also causes kidney cancer. Once again the evidence is limited, and no details of where it has been taken from is given.

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  6. Cancer- yet another cause

    The article, to the bare eye, seems to try and convince the audience of it’ finding by adding statistics and scientific phrases, such as “International Agency for Research “or “mammalian”. However, this does not hide the clear lack of proof supporting the accusation. The evidence does seem to support the claim that red meat and processed meat increase the chances of cancer, but there is also no evidence that it does not. This may imply the tests done have not been sufficient enough to prove it to be true as there is not enough data to conclude so. Furthermore, as it was published ahead of the scientific journal, it may lack valid evidence and explanation. For example, the article uses the term polycyclic aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). Using research conducted on the Internet, I have discovered that in labs, when rats were exposed to some of these PAHs the rats grew tumors and have now been viewed as carcinogens. However the article fails to discuss these, leaving the reader only to believe the words of the publisher. The release of PAHs is not just from food as they surround us. Volcanoes produce them, when coal is heated they are released and they can be found in the air, water and soil. The burning of food causing carbon to form, which is essentially coal. Consuming this is essentially eating a PAH. However, this is in very low concentration and it would take a lot more than a burnt sausage from barbeque for a tumor to suddenly start to grow. Because of this the claims made may be reliable but until a more truth worthy piece is published, I’m not fully convinced.

    Some statics are thrown at the audience like 100g of red meat will increase your chances of getting cancer by 17%. This refers to bowel cancer in particular, as stated in the Independent. However, the first article doesn’t mention that the risk is much lower to get bowel cancer. Although you may have a 17% increase, the total percent is 21% of all bowel cancers, which is just 3% of all cancers. So the chance is still tiny. At the bottom it says if nobody ate red or processed meat there would be 8,800 fewer cases. Which countries will this affect? How many are there now? How can you prove this? No data evidence. In the UK alone, according the Cancer research, 41,581 people every year get bowel cancer. If processed meat and red meat was such a problem, you would expect the number of people getting bowel cancer when they stop eating these would decrease a lot more. It is also said to be one of the more common forms of Cancer, so perhaps the statistics are wrong. With processed meat, the article claims that 50g of processed meat will increase the chances by 8%. Again, where’s the proof?

    The article seems to be quite scientific but perhaps its just terminology used to disguise the article as scientific proof. Paper lie for stories and there is at least on headline in a newspaper a week claiming there is another cause of cancer. We could eat nothing, this seems to reduce the risk of cancer, but then again, that will kill you too. It seems like an endless cycle of cancer causes, without sufficient evidence. Due to a lack of a conclusion it is clear that further investigation needs to be done before any other claims can be put on the shelf. It probably does increase the chances of cancer, but living without Gammon or Pork is not a world I will ever live in.

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  7. The articles are superior to previous articles in that they attempt to be informative while being well written although the article from the mail takes an alternate route of analysis in that it claims meat is not what is dangerous. Although it uses an experts opinion, it is just that – an opinion with no facts. He claims that meat doesn’t have that great an affect on colorectal cancer and it seems as if he should be qualified to do this. I feel that this article is very indicative of what the media is like at this point in time in that it will take any opportunity to present a headline as a definite in order to create interest around a subject.
    The article suggests that red and processed meat increases the risk of you getting certain types of cancer e.g. prostate, colorectal. The article bases these statements off studies which found that there is a 17% increase for 100g of red meat per day and 18% increase for 50g of processed meat per day. Therefore red and processed meat has been regarded as carcinogenic. This adds to the never ending list of things that cause cancer. I feel that the claims made are impromptu as the report isn’t out yet so they can’t conclude the report if it isn’t finished yet and they can’t be accurate if the actual report isn’t released yet so it shouldn’t have been released early.

    I believe there is a similarity between last session and this one, as it suggests meat causes cancer particularly prostate. In the article they try to portray that all meats are linked to this, when there is really only sufficient evidence to prove processed meats have a link to cancer and this is not a very strong one. Like last week, the media have tried to over exaggerate the issue and create an appealing headline where as in reality it only links to a small number of cancers.The phrase “decent results” ruins the credibility of the sources and wouldnt make me change my diet as meat has also been linked to a healthy diet as a good source of protein. Journalists commonly just want to find a controversial headline and will look past all the evidence against the argument and just be one sided to try and sell the most articles.

    This makes the reader think, which is a big part of journalism, about whether they need to re-assess their diet as their is advantages and disadvantages of eating red meats. The results can be heavily dependant ont he consumption rate of certain foods as it doesnt clearly state if the link is related to people with a bad diet or even if you eat it as a one off you are at the same percentage risk.Overall, the article likes to claim a lot of things which they have not yet proven so is simply just hypothesis’, they only have the evidence to prove processed meats are linked and not any other as of yet.

    This only expands the list of what is carcinogenic, and soon no-one will pay attention to the newspapers as over the last decade they have made false accusations and have linked everything from wearing belts to drinking water, so the credibility is already been tampered with and is no longer as reliable as everyone once thought.

    http://www.anorak.co.uk/288298/scare-stories/the-daily-mails-list-of-things-that-give-you-cancer-from-a-to-z.html/

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