A vegetarian diet could help protect against cancer, new research suggests.
Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers, who analyzed 52,700 men and women, found that those who did not eat meat had significantly fewer cancers overall than those who did.
However, surprisingly, scientists also found a higher rate of colorectal cancer - a disease linked with eating red meat - among the vegetarians.
In the study, researchers looked at men and women aged 20 to 89 recruited in the UK in the 1990s. The volunteers were divided into meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans.
During follow-up there were fewer cancers than would be expected in the general population - probably because they were a healthier than average group of people.
But there was a significantly lower incidence of all cancers among the fish-eaters and vegetarians compared with the meat eaters.
For colorectal cancer, however that trend was reversed with vegetarians having a significantly higher incidence of the condition than the other groups.
"It's interesting - it suggests there might be some reduction in cancers in vegetarians and fish-eaters and we need to look carefully at that," The BBC quoted study leader Professor Tim Key, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, as saying.
He added: "It doesn't support the idea that vegetarians would have lower rates of colorectal cancer and I think it means we need to think more carefully about how meat fits into it."