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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Vanderbilt: Red and Processed Meat Associated with Increased Risk of SSPs

Research professor of medicine Dr. Martha Shrubsole, and colleagues at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have published the first study to evaluate intakes of meat, cooking methods and meat mutagens and risk of developing sessile serrated polyps (SSPs, also called sessile serrated lesions). Dr. Shrubsole previously reported that consuming high levels of red meat increased the risk of developing all types of polyps, but that the likelihood of developing SSPs was two times greater than the risk of developing adenomas and hyperplastic polyps (HP).

Conventional colorectal adenomas are the precursor lesions for most colorectal cancers. SSPs, however, represent an alternative pathway to carcinogenesis that may account for up to 35 percent of colorectal cancers. Because a diagnostic consensus for SSPs was not reached until 2010, few epidemiologic studies have evaluated risk factors.

Red and processed meat, classified by the World Health Organization as carcinogens, are risk factors for colorectal neoplasia. However, the mechanism is unclear. One possible explanation is the mutagenic activity of these foods during cooking through heterocyclic amine (HCA) intake.

Dr. Shrubsole said larger studies are needed to confirm that high intakes of red and processed meats are strongly associated with SSP risk, and that part of the association may be due to HCA intake. Future studies could also evaluate other mechanisms and the potential for primary prevention.

The authors concluded, “Meat intake and well-done meat intake are factors that can be modified in the diet; therefore, particularly for SSPs as well as other polyp types, strategies such as reducing red and processed-meat intakes may be important for preventing [colorectal cancer].”

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