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Red Meat Linked to Breast Cancer Risk

Update Date: Jun 11, 2014 02:12 PM EDT

Even though red meat might be delicious, new research has found even more evidence that this source of protein can be bad for one's health. Previous studies have found that red meat consumption increases one's risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Now, according to a new study, red meat might increase women's risk of breast cancer.

"Cutting down processed meat, limiting intake of red meat, and substituting a combination of poultry, fish, legumes and nuts as protein sources for red meat during early life seems beneficial for the prevention of breast cancer," the study's lead investigator, Maryam Farvid, who's with the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition, said according to Philly.

Farvid and her colleagues analyzed data on nearly 89,000 women who were apart of the Nurses' Health Study II, which collected 20-years of information regarding women's diet and health. Surveys were administered in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003 and 2007. Over the time span of the study, 2,830 people developed breast cancer.

After factoring in the participants' height, weight, race, history, smoking, menopausal patterns, and hormone and oral contraceptive use, the researchers found that women who reported eating the highest amount of red meat were nearly 25 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. More specifically, women who ate 1.5 daily servings of red meat were 22 percent more likely to get breast cancer when compared to women who ate one daily serving. Each additional servicing of red meat per day was tied to a 13 percent increased risk of breast cancer. In order to reduce one's risk and improve overall health, people must cut or reduce red meat consumption.

"Decreasing consumption of red meat and replacing it with other healthy dietary sources of protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish, beans, lentils, peas and nuts, may have important public health implications," Farvid said. "Reduction of red meat intake in the diet not only decreases the risk of breast cancer but also decreases the risk of other chronic diseases, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other kind of cancers, as well."

The researchers calculated that replacing a daily serving of red meat with other sources of protein, such as fish, legume, nuts and poultry could reduce the risk of breast cancer by 14 percent. Farvid acknowledged the fact that the study was observational. They did not find a cause-and-effect relationship; however, the correlation was strong.

The researchers reasoned that red meat could increase breast cancer risk because of the byproducts that are produced when red meat is cooked under high temperatures. Farvid added that the hormones used to grow beef cattle might also increase breast cancer risk.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

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