High Red Meat Intake During Early Adulthood Is Associated with Elevated Risk for Breast Cancer

Monday, 04/08/2014  |   Breast Cancer  |  no comments

Substituting other sources of protein for red meat might lower risk.


In the Nurses’ Health Study, red meat intake during early adulthood was associated with excess risk for breast cancer in premenopausal women after 12 years of follow-up. Now, the same investigators report on associations between dietary protein intake during early adulthood and risk for breast cancer after 20 years of follow-up; analysis involved 89,000 premenopausal nurses (mean age, 36) who completed dietary questionnaires at baseline.

More than 2800 cases of breast cancer were documented. Adjusted for multiple potential confounders, the highest median intake of red meat versus the lowest median intake (1.5 servings daily vs. about 1 serving weekly) was associated significantly with elevated risk for breast cancer overall (relative risk, 1.2). In contrast, higher intakes of poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts were not associated with elevated risk. When data were analyzed by menopausal status, higher poultry intake was associated with lower risk for breast cancer in postmenopausal women (RR, 0.7), but not in premenopausal women. The authors estimated that substituting one serving daily of legumes, poultry, or a combination of legumes, nuts, poultry, and fish for one serving daily of red meat was associated with significantly lower risks for breast cancer.

In this large prospective study, high red meat intake during early adulthood was associated significantly with excess risk for breast cancer, whereas high intakes of other protein sources were not. Although residual confounding is possible, recommending that young women get their protein from sources other than red meat is reasonable — potentially to lower both breast cancer and cardiovascular risks.
Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

Farvid MS et al. Dietary protein sources in early adulthood and breast cancer incidence: Prospective cohort study. BMJ 2014 Jun 10; 348:g3437. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3437)

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