Vegetarians are significantly less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters, latest study results suggest.
Oxford University researchers studied more than 61,000 meat eaters and vegetarians over 12 years, looking at 20 different types of cancer.
They found that vegetarians are 12% less likely than meat eaters to develop all types of cancer, and 45% less likely to develop cancers of the blood, such as leukaemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The risk of being diagnosed with cancer of the stomach and bladder was also significantly lower in vegetarians than in meat eaters. However, the risk for cancer of the cervix was significantly higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters, the researchers found.
Although dietary factors have been suspected of influencing the risk of cervical cancer, the principal cause is the human papillomavirus and the differences in risk between the two groups could be due to factors such as attendance for cervical screening, the researchers said.
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘These results add to the evidence that what we eat affects our chances of developing cancer.
‘We know that eating a lot of red and processed meat increases the risk of stomach cancer. But the links between diet and cancer risk are complex and more research is needed to see how big a part diet plays, and which specific dietary factors are most important,’ she added.
The study results are published on in the British Journal of Cancer.