A meat-free diet could reduce the risk of developing cancer, according to a new study.
More than 61,000 people were monitored over 12 years by Cancer Research UK scientists from Oxford, who found that vegetarians were 12% less likely to develop cancer than people who ate meat. The risk was almost halved for cancers of the blood including leukaemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma where vegetarians' risk was 45% lower than meat eaters.
People who ate fish but no meat also had a "significantly lower" chance of developing many cancers, according to the research which was published in the British Journal of Cancer today.
The group which was studied included 32,403 meat eaters, 8,562 people who ate fish but no meat (pescetarians) and 20,601 vegetarians who ate neither. During the study, 3,350 (5.4%) of the participants were diagnosed with cancer. Some 2,204 (6.8%) of the meat eaters were diagnosed with a form of cancer, compared with 317 (3.7%) of pescetarians and 829 (4%) of vegetarians.
Professor Tim Key, the study's author from the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, said: "Our large study looking at cancer risk in vegetarians found the likelihood of people developing some cancers is lower among vegetarians than among people who eat meat. In particular, vegetarians were much less likely to develop cancers of the blood which include leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. More research is needed to substantiate these results and to look for reasons for the differences."