they have boasted of the health benefits of their leafy diets, but
now vegetarians have the proof that has so far eluded them: when
it comes to cancer risks, they have the edge on carnivores.
from the largest study to date to investigate dietary habits and
cancer has concluded that vegetarians are 45% less likely to develop
cancer of the blood than meat eaters and are 12% less likely to
develop cancer overall.
said that while links between stomach cancer and eating meat had
already been reported, they had uncovered a "striking difference"
in the risk of blood cancers including leukaemia, multiple myeloma
and non-Hodgkin lymphoma between the groups. The study looked at
vegetarians, fish eaters and people who ate meat.
Allen, from the Cancer Research UK epidemiology unit at Oxford University,
said: "Previous research has found that processed meat may
increase the risk of stomach cancer, so our findings that vegetarians
and fish eaters are at lower risk is plausible. But we do not know
why cancer of the blood is lower in vegetarians."
She said the
differences in cancer risks were independent of other lifestyle
factors including smoking, alcohol intake and obesity.
urged caution over the interpretation of the findings. "It
is a significant difference, but we should be a bit cautious since
it is the first study showing that the risk of cancer of the blood
is lower in vegetarians. We need to know what aspect of a fish and
vegetarian diet is protecting against cancer. Is it the higher fibre
intake, higher intake of fruit and vegetables, is it just meat per
The study also
reported that the total cancer incidence was significantly lower
among both the fish eaters and the vegetarians compared with meat