“For some cancers like leukemia, stomach and bladder cancers the difference was even more striking with up to 45 per cent fewer non-meat eaters contracting the diseases than carnivores. Fish eaters actually had the lowest rate of cancer ” 18 per cent lower than meat eaters ” but they were also the smallest sample”.
Dr Naomi Allen, an epidemiologist at Oxford University and co-author of the study, said: “This is strong evidence that vegetarians have lower rates of cancer than meat eaters.”
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, 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.”
Su Taylor, of The Vegetarian Society, said: “That is why we need more research along these lines to find out exactly what is going on. We are not saying vegetarianism is the panacea for all ill health but it certainly helps protect against a number of diseases.”