“I just want to give it my best shot, and the good Lord willing …”

This is the immortal and clichéd phrase spoken by Tim Robbins playing Calvin “Meat” LaLoosh to the attractive young reporter as he starts his career in the Majors near the end of Bull Durham. And now we know that the meat isn’t as bad an actor (in the development of prostate cancer) as the reviewers had been suggesting!

Well … ummm …maybe

In a new meta-analysis by Alexander et al., just published in Nutrition Journal, the authors have re-assessed data from a total of 26 epidemiological studies that sought to identify any connection between meat, diet, and risk for prostate cancer. Specifically, the studies included 15 on risk from red meat in the diet and 11 on risk from processed meat.

Meta-analyses of this type are complex epidemiologic and statistical exercises, and we do not pretend to be able to know how much reliance can be placed on the assumptions and the adjustments applied by the authors in conducting this meta-analysis. We are going to limit ourselves to reporting their conclusions, as follows:

  • The meta-analysis was primarily based on data from large, prospective cohort studies published since 2002.
  • Most meta-analysis summary associations for red and processed meat “were null, or just above or below the null value, and not statistically significant.” In other words, there was no clear evidence for any association between meat in the diet and risk for prostate cancer.
  • Meta-analysis summary associations  for processed meat were “weakly elevated,” but they weren’t statistically significant when the authors looked at the data from the more recent and higher quality studies.
  • There was evidence of publication bias across the cohort studies of processed meat. In other words, there appeared to be bias toward the publication of data showing that there was an association between eating processed meat and a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
  • This meta-analysis of prospective studies does not support an independent positive association between intake of red meat or processed meat and the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Will this be the last word on this topic. Absolutely not. There is too much at stake for all of the interested parties.

Furthermore, this study was funded in part by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), although the authors state that  “NCBA did not contribute to the writing, analysis, or interpretation of research findings,” and that “All data included in this manuscript were extracted from peer-reviewed published literature.”

5 Responses

  1. Calvin “Nuke” Laloosh, known for his nuclear fastball, might wonder if cancer is related to radiation.

  2. Only if well focused on the target area!

  3. “… too much at stake ….” Hah, hah, hah!

  4. Was there ever a disease that didn’t have a treatment? Whether it existed or not.

  5. Stanley:

    Are you suggesting that eating meat (or being a cattleman) is a disease? I’m confused!

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