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Thursday 22nd August 2019

Red meat may increase risk of breast cancer

11th June 2014

Researchers at Harvard University have suggested that substituting red meats with alternative proteins could reduce the risk of breast cancer in young women.

MeatThis research contradicts previous studies and UK experts are recommending caution before further research is undertaken.

The study

The Harvard School of Public Health in Boston studied the diets of nearly 3,000 women who developed breast cancer. (They also analysed generic data of nearly 90,000 women aged 24 to 43).

The researchers said: "Higher red meat intake in early adulthood may be a risk factor for breast cancer", and "replacing red meat with a combination of legumes, poultry, nuts and fish may reduce the risk of breast cancer".

A spokesperson from the study described the risk as "small".


Both the American Cancer Society and the Department of Health (DH) have issued a recommendation of consuming less red and/or processed meat a day, with the latter suggesting 70g or less.

Prof Tim Key, from the University of Oxford, said the US study found "only a weak link" between eating red meat and breast cancer, which was "not strong enough to change the existing evidence that has found no definite link between the two".

He said that women can reduce their risk by "maintaining a healthy weight, drinking less alcohol and being physically active", but said it is not a bad idea to moderate the consumption of red meat.

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