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Background The associations of vegetarian diets with risks for site-specific cancers have not been estimated reliably due to the low number of vegetarians in previous studies. Therefore, the Cancer Risk in Vegetarians Consortium was established. Objective To describe and compare the baseline characteristics between non-vegetarian and vegetarian diet groups and between the collaborating studies. Methods We harmonised individual-level data from 11 prospective cohort studies in the UK, US, India, China, and Taiwan. Comparisons of food intakes, sociodemographic and lifestyle factors were made between diet groups and between cohorts using descriptive statistics. Results 2.3 million participants were included; 66% women and 34% men, with mean ages at recruitment of 57 (SD: 7.8) and 57 (8.6) years, respectively. There were 2.1 million meat eaters, 60,903 poultry eaters, 44,780 pescatarians, 81,165 vegetarians, and 14,167 vegans. Food intake differences between the diet groups varied across the cohorts; for example, fruit and vegetable intakes were generally higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters in all the cohorts except in China. BMI was generally lower in vegetarians, particularly vegans, except for the cohorts in India and China. In general, but with some exceptions, vegetarians were also more likely to be highly educated and physically active and less likely to smoke. In the available resurveys, stability of diet groups was high in all the cohorts except in China. Conclusions Food intakes and lifestyle factors of both non-vegetarians and vegetarians varied markedly across the individual cohorts, which may be due to differences in both culture and socioeconomic status, as well as differences in questionnaire design. Therefore, care is needed in the interpretation of the impacts of vegetarian diets on cancer risk.

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poultry eaters, meat eaters, vegans, consortium, vegetarians, pescatarians