Replacing red meat with healthier foods may help prevent breast cancer

Harold Mandel's picture
Delicious and nutritous chicken and peas
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Breast cancer is devastating diagnoses for any woman. In spite of advances in treatment and the increased possibility for cures there remains a high degree of morbidity and mortality associated with breast cancer. Recent research findings that eating red meat may be associated with an increased incidence of breast cancer raises an interest in dietary approaches to prevention of this dreaded condition.

Red meat should be replaced with healthier foods

Researchers investigated the association which exists between dietary protein sources in early adulthood and the risk of breast cancer reported the British Medical Journal. They concluded that higher red meat consumption in early adulthood may increase the risk for breast cancer. The researchers have suggested replacing red meat with healthier foods including:

1: A combination of legumes

2: Poultry

3: Nuts

4: Fish

This dietary approach may lower the risk of breast cancer.

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In this study each serving per day increase in red meat was found to be associated with a 13 percent increase in risk of breast cancer. The absolute number of excess cases of breast cancer which are attributable to red meat intake appears substantial enough to be a public health concern. It is also of interest that eating more poultry was associated with a lower incidence of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

Breast cancer increases as red meat consumption increases

The estimated risk of breast cancer increases as red meat consumption increases reports the British Medical Journal in a discussion of this research. It appears that increased red meat consumption in early adulthood may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Women whose diets contain more legumes, such as peas, beans and lentils, poultry, nuts and fish might be at decreased risk in later life.

Prior to this study research has not suggested any significant association between red meat consumption and breast cancer. A US research team decided to investigate the association between dietary protein sources in early adulthood and the risk of breast cancer. The researchers analyzed data from 88,803 premenopausal women between the ages of 26 to 45 taking part in the Nurses' Health Study II who took a questionnaire on diet in 1991.

In this study red meat items included unprocessed red meat such as pork or lamb and hamburger, and processed red meat such as bacon, hot dogs, and sausage. Poultry included turkey and chicken while fish included salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Legumes included peas, beans, lentils, and nuts.

Breast cancer risk increases with increased servings of red meat

During 20 years of follow-up medical records identified 2,830 cases of breast cancer. It was estimated by the researchers that for each increase in the women's consumption of red meat, there was an increase in the risk of getting breast cancer over the 20 year study period. Overall it was estimated that increased consumption of red meat was associated with a 22 percent increased risk of breast cancer. For each additional serving per day of red meat there was an associated 13 percent increase in risk of breast cancer.

Eating more poultry, legumes, nuts, and fish lowers breast cancer risk

It was found in contrast to this that there was a decreased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women with increased consumption of poultry. Substitution of one serving per day of poultry for one serving per day of red meat was found to be associated with a 17 percent lower risk of breast cancer overall and a 24 percent decreased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. It was also found that substitution of one serving per day of combined nuts, legumes, poultry, and fish for one serving per day of red meat was associated with a 14 percent decreased risk of breast cancer overall.

This research offers compelling evidence of an association between dietary factors and risk for breast cancer. Clearly prevention is highly desirable when dealing with this feared condition. It is highly advisable for women to therefore consider substitution of red meat with healthier foods such as poultry, nuts, legumes and fish. These foods are delicious and nutritious and can fun to eat.

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