Red and processed meats could increase cancer risk through several potential mechanisms involving iron, heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, andN-nitroso compounds. Although there have been multiple studies of meat and colorectal cancer, other gastrointestinal malignancies are understudied.
We estimated hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the association between meat, meat components, and meat cooking by-products and risk of esophageal or gastric cancer in a large cohort study. During ∼10 years of follow-up, we accrued 215 esophageal squamous cell carcinomas, 630 esophageal adenocarcinomas, 454 gastric cardia adenocarcinomas, and 501 gastric non-cardia adenocarcinomas.
Red meat intake was positively associated with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (HR for the top versus bottom quintile=1.79, 95% CI: 1.07–3.01,Pfor trend=0.019). Individuals in the highest intake quintile of 2-amino-3,4,8-trimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (DiMeIQx) had an increased risk for gastric cardia cancer (HR=1.44, 95% CI: 1.01–2.07,Pfor trend=0.104). Furthermore, those in the highest quintile of 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx), 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP), or heme iron intake had a suggestive increased risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma (HR=1.35, 95% CI: 0.97–1.89,Pfor trend=0.022; HR=1.45, 95% CI: 0.99–2.12,Pfor trend=0.463; or HR=1.47, 95% CI: 0.99–2.20,Pfor trend=0.063, respectively). Benzo[a]pyrene, nitrate, and nitrite were not associated with esophageal or gastric cancer.
We found positive associations between red meat intake and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, and between DiMeIQx intake and gastric cardia cancer.