One of the frustrations of blogging about health topics is that scientists can't seen to make up their mind. One day, a link is discovered between red meat and breast cancer. The next, that link is found to have some problems. That's the way it looks today after an extensive study on women and their diets.
A large study has now been concluded by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The study was published this month in the International Journal of Cancer.Eating red or white meat, including meat cooked at high temperatures, does not increase the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
Previous studies, some reported here at Sham vs. Wham, have found that eating red meat or meat cooked at high temperatures increases the risk of breast cancer. But a link between meat in the diet and breast cancer in women has not been established. “Previous epidemiologic studies in humans looking at the amount of meat in the diet have yielded inconsistent results,” says lead author Geoffrey C. Kabat, Ph.D., M.S., senior epidemiologist in the department of epidemiology and population health at Einstein.
Dr. Kabat and his colleagues analyzed data on 120,755 postmenopausal women who participated in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health and American Association of Retired Persons. When the women enrolled in the study (between 1995 and 1996), they gave detailed information on what types of food they ate and how often they ate certain foods. In addition, they provided information on meat-preparation methods. Most researchers feel that this particular data set is one of the most complete there is for such a review.
Over the next eight years, approximately three percent, or 3,818, of the women developed breast cancer. The researchers found no evidence that the amount of meat consumed, meat-cooking methods used, or meat-mutagen intake was associated with an increased risk for breast cancer. Reported meat intake included steak, hamburger, chicken, pork, processed meat and meat cooked at high temperatures.
Neither the current study nor earlier studies assessed the diets of younger women. “So we haven’t ruled out the possibility that eating meat and exposure to meat mutagens at a younger age — particularly during adolescence when the breasts are developing — may increase one’s risk of breast cancer,” says Dr. Kabat.