Study Links Type of Breast Cancer to Red Meat

By Christine Cupaiuolo — November 14, 2006

A front-page story in today’s Washington Post reports on the findings of a study linking consumption of red meat with a certain type of breast cancer. The study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The background and results can be viewed here, but the full text requires registration.

From the WP, Rob Stein writes:

Younger women who regularly eat red meat appear to face an increased risk for a common form of breast cancer, according to a large, well-known Harvard study of women’s health.

The study of more than 90,000 women found that the more red meat the women consumed in their 20s, 30s and 40s, the greater their risk for developing breast cancer fueled by hormones in the next 12 years. Those who consumed the most red meat had nearly twice the risk of those who ate red meat infrequently.

The study, published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is the first to examine the relationship between consumption of red meat and breast cancer in premenopausal women, and the first to examine the question by type of breast cancer.

Although more research is needed to confirm the association and explore the possible reasons for it, researchers said the findings provide another motivation to limit consumption of red meat, which is already known to increase the risk of colon cancer.

“There are already other reasons to minimize red meat intake,” said Eunyoung Cho, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the study. “This just may give women another good reason.”

Continue reading here.

The study doesn’t address the question of why red meat is a potential culprit, but Stein notes that previous research has uncovered several possible connections: “Substances produced by cooking meat may be carcinogenic, naturally occurring substances in meat may mimic the action of hormones, or growth hormones that farmers feed cows could fuel breast cancer in women who consume meat from the animals.”

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