Is red meat linked to breast cancer?

Research from the US has reported that eating a lot of red meat in early adult life may slightly increase the risk of breast cancer.

This study involved almost 89,000 women aged 23 to 43 who were asked in 1991 about their usual dietary intake in the past year. Nine categories of red meat intake were recorded, from “never or less than once per month” to “six or more a day.” Red meat items included unprocessed red meat such as beef, pork, lamb, and hamburger and processed red meat such as hot dogs, bacon, and sausage. The women were followed up for 20 years and it was found that a higher intake of red meat was associated with a 22% increased risk of breast cancer overall.

Previous studies have shown no clear link between red meat and breast cancer and the results of this one study can’t be considered in isolation.

Evidence to date has however shown a link between high intakes of red and processed meat and bowel cancer and so moderating intake is a good idea.

The World Cancer Research Fund  (WCRF) recommends consuming no more than 500g per week cooked red meat (average 70g/day) like beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and some sausages. Consuming a small steak or spaghetti bolognaise twice a week will not exceed this. In addition many women and children have low iron intakes and red meat is a great source of iron.

The WCRF also recommend keeping several days per week meat free, choosing fish as a good alternative to red meat, filling up on vegetables and wholegrains and including kidney beans, chick peas and lentils in meals. 

Posted: 11/06/2014 14:03:15 by Laura Keaver


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