PhotoA new study revealed that consuming too much red meat could increase the risk of developing breast cancer, though swapping red meat for poultry could help reduce that risk. 

“Red meat has been identified as a probable carcinogen,” said researcher Dale P. Sandler, PhD. “Our study adds further evidence that red meat consumption may be associated with increased risk of breast cancer, whereas poultry was associated with decreased risk.” 

Finding the right foods

To test the health differences between consuming red meat and poultry, the researchers had over 42,000 women track their diets and health status over the course of the study. The participants also completed the Block Food Frequency Questionnaire at the start of the study and again at a follow-up evaluation roughly 7.5 years after the first round. 

The relationship between red meat consumption and poultry consumption to breast cancer was completely inverse; eating more red meat increased the risk of breast cancer while eating more poultry decreased the risk. 

Overall, the researchers determined that those who were fervent red meat eaters were over 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer. They also had a greater risk of having invasive breast cancer. Conversely, those who favored poultry over red meat were 15 percent less likely to receive a breast cancer diagnosis and were less likely to have invasive breast cancer. 

Though the researchers are unsure why this relationship exists, they do know that consumers can take steps to improve their diet and reduce their risk of breast cancer. 

“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,” said Sandler. 

Reducing red meat intake

One recent study found that eating red meat -- even in small increments -- can be incredibly detrimental to consumers’ health and actually lead to an early death. While red meat wasn’t entirely to blame for all premature deaths, the researchers did note that it certainly plays a role, especially in higher quantities. 

“Our findings give additional weight to the evidence already suggesting that eating red and processed meat may negatively impact health and lifespan,” said researcher Dr. Michael Orlich.


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