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OBJECTIVES: To examine differences in health-related behaviours such as screening or testing for cancer, use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and use of other medications in different diet groups. DESIGN: We studied 31 260 participants across four diet groups (18 155 meat eaters, 5012 fish eaters, 7179 vegetarians, 914 vegans) in the UK EPIC-Oxford cohort. Information was collected in 5-year (around 2000-2003) or 10-year (around 2007) follow-up questionnaires regarding participation in breast screening, cervical screening, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, use of HRT and use of medications for the past 4 weeks. Using Poisson regression, we estimated the prevalence ratios (PR) for each behaviour across people of different diet groups, using meat eaters as the reference group. RESULTS: Compared with meat eaters, vegetarian (PR: 0.94, 95% CI 0.89 to 0.98) and vegan (PR: 0.82, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.95) women reported lower participation in breast screening, and vegetarian men were less likely to report PSA testing (PR: 0.82, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.96). No differences were observed among women for cervical screening. In women, all non-meat-eating groups reported lower use of HRT compared with meat eaters (P heterogeneity <0.0001). Lower reported use of any medication was observed for participants in all non-meat-eating groups with no (P<0.0001) or one (P=0.0002) self-reported illness. No heterogeneity was observed across the diet groups for the reported use of specific medication for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, asthma, diabetes and thyroid disease. CONCLUSIONS: Differences in self-reported breast screening, PSA testing, HRT use and overall medication use were observed across the diet groups. Whether such differences contribute to differential long-term disease risks requires further study.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





oncology, Adult, Aged, Animals, Cohort Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Diet, Early Detection of Cancer, Female, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neoplasms, Seafood, United Kingdom, Vegetarians