Does eating red and processed meat increase melanoma risk?

The consumption of red meat and processed meat has been associated with an increased risk for several cancers, but the association with cutaneous melanoma risk has been inconclusive. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology investigated the association between red and processed meat intake and melanoma risk.

In the study, dietary information was assessed by using food frequency questionnaires in two prospective cohorts: 75,263 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (1984-2010) and 48,523 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2010). Melanoma cases were confirmed by reviewing pathology records.

A total of 679 female and 639 male melanoma cases were documented during follow-up. Red meat and processed meat intake was inversely associated with melanoma risk (P = .002 for trend). The pooled hazard ratios (95% confidence intervals) of the two cohorts were 1.00 (reference), 1.00 (0.87-1.14), 0.98 (0.86-1.13), 0.89 (0.77-1.02), and 0.81 (0.70-0.95) for increasing quintiles of intake.

In light of these findings, the study concluded that red meat and processed meat intake was inversely associated with melanoma risk in these two cohorts.

Comment from Dermatology Research Review (Page 6, Issue 50, 2018):
This is an encouraging study for those who like to eat red meat. This is surprising, as red meat produces carcinogens, which have been associated with an increased risk of colorectal and stomach cancer and potentially pancreatic and prostate cancer. Red meat contains retinol and nicotinamide, which may theoretically reduce melanoma risk, although have not been shown to do so in other studies. This inverse association was limited to those with severe sunburn reactions as a child or adolescent. Whether eating red meat as an adult may continue this benefit was not addressed. Because of its other associations with other cancers, it is reasonable to have a balanced red meat intake.

Read more research on melanoma.


Yen, Hsi et al. Red meat and processed meat intake and risk for cutaneous melanoma in white women and men: Two prospective cohort studies. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Volume 79, Issue 2, 252 – 257.e6. DOI:

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