Expert Q&A

Red Meat: Does It Cause Stomach Cancer?

Does red meat cause stomach cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 22,280 new stomach cancer cases were diagnosed in 2006. Many years of research have demonstrated that a person's diet is the most important risk factor for stomach cancer. Specifically, researchers have found that eating red meat (beef, lamb, and pork) more than 13 times per week doubles the risk of stomach cancer. 13 servings of red meat may sound like an impossible amount, but it is actually very realistic given common food choices and portion sizes. Here's how the meat servings can add up:

Lunch entrees:

  • ΒΌ pound hamburger
  • 1-2 beef tacos
  • 1 bologna, salami, or roast beef sandwich

Eaten on a daily basis, these lunches rack up a whopping 7 servings of red meat per week. Add to this number dinner entrees such as:

  • Steak
  • Spaghetti with meat sauce
  • Lasagna
  • Pork chop (or other common red meat dishes).

Together, these meals can easily add up to 13 servings of meat per week. Also, consider that while a recommended serving of meat is three ounces, most Americans eat 6 to 8 ounces (or more) at a single meal.

The risk of developing stomach cancer is even greater when grilled, blackened, or well done meat is eaten often. Charring or overcooking meat creates a compound that can cause cancer when eaten regularly over time.

To reduce the risk of stomach and other cancers, limit the amount of red meat in your diet. Less is better, so if you are currently eating red meat 3 times a day, try cutting back to once a day. If you are eating it once a day, cut back to a few times per week, with the ultimate goal being once or twice weekly.

Erin Dummert RD, CD
Contributing Expert

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