- New research on 40,000 women shows that eating red meat is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer but eating chicken meat appears to reduce that risk.
Currently in the United States of America, about 1 in 8 women are prone to developing breast cancer. For women it is the most common cancer after skin cancer.
Rates of breast cancer differ significantly depending on which part of the USA you live. The suggestion is that both lifestyle and environment probably have a role to play is the different rates.
Nutrition has always been a significant factor in the development of many cancers including breast cancer. Back in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated the carcinogenicity of red meat consumption and announced that it is “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Group 2A) (Johnson, 2017).
The new study in the International Journal of Cancer (Lo et al., 2019) looked at the consumption of different types of meat and various meat cooking practices with 42,000 women over an average time period of eight years. At the end of the research periods, researchers found women who ate the most amount of red meat had an estimated 23 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate the least amount of red meat. However, women who ate the most poultry had an estimated 15 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate the least amount of poultry.
The researchers evaluated data from the Sister Study which not only included women from the USA and Puerto Rico. The women were all between 35 and 74 years old. In that time there were 1,536 cases of breast cancer. Different cooking methods were also examined too. This included how they prepared hamburgers, steak along with pork chops and had to cover the full range of cooking from ‘rare’ to really well done.
In this sort of study which is observational there is always some limitations because cause and effect cannot be correlated at all well. It is also possible that the subjects change their eating habits and the way they cook food over that period of time.
In the press release the researchers stated:-
“No associations were observed for cooking practices or chemicals formed when cooking meat at high temperature,..”
The author, Dale Sandler of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences stated:-
“Red meat has been identified as a probable carcinogen. Our study adds further evidence that red meat consumption may be associated with [an] increased risk of breast cancer whereas poultry was associated with decreased risk.”
“While the mechanism through which poultry consumption decreases breast cancer risk is not clear, our study does provide evidence that substituting poultry for red meat may be a simple change that can help reduce the incidence of breast cancer.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that eating red meat has not yet been established as a cause of cancer even though research focuses on the connection between red meat consumption and colorectal cancer. It does state that red meat is a probable carcinogen
Johnson, I.T. (2017) The cancer risk related to meat and meat products. Br. Med. Bull. 121 pp. 73–81
Lo, J.J., park, Y.-M. M., Sinha, R. Sandler, D.P. (2019) Association between meat consumption and risk of breast cancer: Findings from the Sister Study. Int. J. Cancer (Article)