Vegetarians are less likely to get cancer than meat-eaters
A MEAT-FREE diet could cut the risk of developing cancer, a new study suggests.
More than 61,000 people were monitored over 12 years by Cancer Research UK scientists who found vegetarians were 12 per cent less likely to develop cancer than people who ate meat.
The risk was almost halved for cancers of the blood including leukaemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma where vegetarians' risk was 45 per cent lower than meat eaters'.
People who ate fish but no other meat also had a "significantly lower" chance of developing many cancers, according to the research, which was published today.
The group that was studied included 32,403 meat eaters, 8,562 people who ate fish but no other meat (pescetarians) and 20,601 vegetarians who ate neither.
During the study, 3,350 (5.4 per cent) of the participants were diagnosed with cancer.
Some 2,204 (6.8 per cent) of the meat eaters were diagnosed with cancer, compared with 317 (3.7 per cent) pescetarians and 829 (4 per cent) 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.
"More research is needed to substantiate these results and to look for reasons for the differences."
The study looked at 20 different types of cancers and found the differences in risks between vegetarians and meat eaters were independent of other lifestyle factors – including smoking, alcohol intake and obesity – that affect the risk of developing cancer.
Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "These interesting 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.
"The relatively low number of vegetarians who developed cancer in this study supports Cancer Research UK's advice that people should eat a healthy, balanced diet high in fibre, fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat, salt and red and processed meat.
"We are surprised to see an association between leukaemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma, and more research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved."
Women's better odds of making a full century
CENTENARIANS are Scotland's fastest-growing age group, new figures showed yesterday.
The number of Scots aged 100 and older is now estimated to be 720, compared with just 570 in 2002. And around 30 of them are thought to be aged 105 or older.
The figures were published by the Registrar General for Scotland, Duncan Macniven, who said: "This is one example of the ageing of Scotland's population. Almost nine out of every ten centenarians are women but the proportion of men is slowly increasing."
A hundred years ago Scottish centenarians were rare.
By the turn of this century there were estimated to be more than 500 and the figure has been rising steadily.
But the number in the next age group down – those aged 90 to 99 – has fallen for the second year in a row, as a result of fewer babies being born during the First World War.
Women accounted for 630 of Scotland's centenarians, or nearly 90 per cent, while only 90 men reached the milestone. Three-quarters of people in their 90s are women, according to the figures.
The findings came after the death was reported of Elizabeth Cockburn in Aberdeenshire on Sunday, aged 108.
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