Meat consumption and cancer of unknown primary (CUP) risk: results from The Netherlands cohort study on diet and cancer

K.E.P.E. Hermans*, P.A. van den Brandt, C. Loef, R.L.H. Jansen, L.J. Schouten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


Purpose Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) is a metastasised cancer for which no primary lesion could be identified during life. Research into CUP aetiology with respect to dietary factors is particularly scarce. This study investigates whether meat consumption is associated with CUP risk. Methods Data was utilised from the prospective Netherlands cohort study that includes 1,20,852 participants aged 55-69 years. All participants completed a self-administered questionnaire on diet and other cancer risk factors at baseline. Cancer follow-up was established through record linkage to the Netherlands Cancer Registry and the Dutch Pathology Registry. A total of 899 CUP cases and 4111 subcohort members with complete and consistent dietary data were available for case-cohort analyses after 20.3 years of follow-up. Multivariable adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) were calculated using proportional hazards models. Results We found a statistically significant positive association with beef and processed meat consumption and CUP risk in women (multivariable adjusted HR Q4 vs. Q1 1.47, 95% CI 1.04-2.07, P-trend = 0.004 and Q4 vs. Q1 1.53, 95% CI 1.08-2.16, P-trend = 0.001, respectively), and a non-significant positive association with processed meat consumption and CUP risk in men (multivariable adjusted HR Q4 vs. Q1 1.33, 95% CI 0.99-1.79, P-trend = 0.15). No associations were observed between red meat (overall), poultry or fish consumption and CUP risk. Conclusion In this cohort, beef and processed meat consumption were positively associated with increased CUP risk in women, whereas a non-significant positive association was observed between processed meat consumption and CUP risk in men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4579-4593
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Issue number8
Early online date21 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Cancer of unknown primary (CUP)
  • Red meat
  • Processed meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Prospective cohort study

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