Red Meat Linked to Breast Cancer

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • Several years ago, I wrote an article for U.S. News and World Report about the large and well-known Harvard study of nurses that is often in the news for its findings about women’s health. So I take a special interest when the study is in the news, as it is again today for its’ latest finding: that the risk of breast cancer, especially the type I was diagnosed with, estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer in pre-menopausal women, could be linked to eating red meat.

    The study of 90,000 women found that the more red meat the women ate in their 20s, 30s and 40s, the larger their risk was for developing breast cancer in the next 12 years. The women who ate the most red meat –more than one and a half servings a day—had nearly twice the risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate three or fewer servings per week. The study was published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
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    The findings are not definitive and further research is needed to confirm the connection between breast cancer and red meat. However, in the meantime, women who are worried can limit their consumption.

    There are several theories about why red meat may increase the risk of breast cancer: carcinogens produced by cooking meat, substances in meat that may mimic how hormones act, and the growth hormones that farmers feed cows.

    Some people may want to wait for further evidence before they give up their red meat. As for me, while I enjoy the occasional burger or steak, especially at summer barbeques, I’ve never been a big carnivore. But no one ever said red meat is healthy, so I will continue to enjoy it in small quantities, which I’m sure falls below the three or fewer servings per week yardstick. And I’ll continue to be grateful to my younger daughter, who stopped eating red meat several years ago, which forced me to stop serving red meat as a family dinner option. Maybe I’ll even stop complaining now about how boring it is to eat chicken and salmon and turkey burgers all the time.

    Are these findings likely to change your eating habits?
Published On: November 15, 2006