Vegetarians seen less likely to get cancer

Wed Jul 1, 2009 7:32am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Vegetarians are 12 percent less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters and the advantage is particularly marked when it comes to cancers of the blood, British researchers said on Wednesday.

Past research has shown that eating lots of red or processed meat is linked to a higher rate of stomach cancer and the new study, involving more than 60,000 people, did confirm a lower risk of both stomach and bladder cancer.

But the most striking and surprising difference was in cancers of the blood -- such as leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma -- where the risk of disease was 45 percent lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters.

"More research is needed to substantiate these results and to look for reasons for the differences," Tim Key, study author from the Cancer Research UK epidemiology unit at Oxford University, said.

Key and colleagues, who published their findings in the British Journal of Cancer, followed 61,000 meat eaters and vegetarians for over 12 years, during which time 3,350 of the participants were diagnosed with cancer.

The study, which looked at 20 different types of cancer, found the differences in risk were independent of other factors such as smoking, alcohol intake and obesity, which can all increase the chance of developing cancer.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler, editing by Paul Casciato)

<p>A diner pours olive oil on a salad at a restaurant in Rome May 17, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli</p>