Consumption of red meat may increase the risk of developing colon cancer, according to a new study.

In seven years 2,710 cases of colon cancer were found in red meat eaters, out of the 300,000 respondents who were studied on their meat consumption behaviour.

The review was made by a team from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the US National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Those who ate the most red and processed meat showed a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who consumed less.

Heme iron is particularly high in red meat and nitrates are mostly found in processed meats such as salami or hot dogs, the researchers said.

Heterocyclic amines are produced when the meat is cooked at a high temperature and are known to be mutagenic, meaning that they can alter DNA and therefore increase the rate of cell production that can lead to cancer.