Dr Dominik Alexander. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
There is no conclusive evidence red meat increases the
risk of bowel cancer, a visiting United States epidemiologist
Dr Dominik Alexander acknowledged his visit to New Zealand
and Australia was jointly funded by Beef and Lamb New
Zealand, and an Australian agribusiness group, but this did
not compromise his views, he said.
Evidence of nutritional links to bowel cancer were
Even the role of fibre in preventing bowel cancer was not
firmly established, while the "jury is still out" on fruit
There was emerging evidence for a protective role played by
vitamin D, as well as calcium.
Isolating the role food played in cancer was notoriously
difficult, far more than Dr Alexander's other area of
expertise, occupational and environmental epidemiology.
The biggest factors in developing bowel cancer were shown to
be body weight and exercise, showing people needed a
balanced, active lifestyle, he said.
He acknowledged there was concern in the United States about
the role red meat played in cancer development, but the
science did not back up the perception of harm, he said.
Some studies showing a link had been "over-hyped".
Dr Alexander said that employing a meta-analysis - weighing
up all studies - revealed no discernable increased risk.
Otago and Southland have New Zealand's highest incidence of
bowel cancer, while New Zealand's rates are some of the
highest in the world.
Asked about that, Dr Alexander said causes were not
necessarily environmental, and people often overlooked the
fact cancers could take decades to develop.
Dr Alexander lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he works for
an epidemiology consulting firm.