Meat has been linked as a risk factor for several cancers. Red meat and processed meat specifically have been suggested as risk factors for esophageal cancer, but this has not been established. We performed a meta-analysis to summarize available evidence from case-control and cohort studies on this topic.
A systematic search of MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE was completed up until July, 2012. Studies were included that reported confirmed histological diagnosis of cancer, odds ratios (OR) or relative risks (RR) and confidence intervals (CI). Pooled ORs and 95% CIs were calculated for the effect of different meats on the development of esophageal cancer using a random effects model. Studies were assessed for heterogeneity and publication bias.
29 studies were included in this analysis, involving 1,208,768 individuals with a total of 8,620 cases and 44,574 controls. High consumption rates were associated with development of cancer in red meat (OR 1.59; 95% CI 1.31-1.93), processed meat (OR 1.75; 95% CI 1.28-2.38), barbecued meat (OR 1.54; 95% CI 1.25–1.91) and overall (OR 1.26; 95% CI 1.11-1.43). Low and medium consumption rates were also significant for red and barbecued meat. High and medium consumption of white meat was significantly protective. High consumption of fish was also found to be protective (OR 0.73; 95% CI 0.55-0.95).
Findings of this meta-analysis demonstrated red meat, processed meat and barbecued meat are likely to increase the risk of esophageal cancer in a dose dependent relationship. Fish and white meat were shown to have a protective effect.