Red Meat and Breast Cancer: Long-Term Follow-Up Adds to the Evidence — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
June 11, 2014

Red Meat and Breast Cancer: Long-Term Follow-Up Adds to the Evidence

By Kelly Young

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Richard Saitz, MD, MPH, FACP, FASAM

High red meat consumption in early adulthood is associated with increased risk for breast cancer, according to longer-term follow-up from the Nurses Health Study II, published in BMJ.

Researchers assessed intake of red meat and other protein sources among nearly 90,000 premenopausal women using food-frequency questionnaires. During 20 years of follow-up, some 2800 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed. After multivariable adjustment, women in the top quintile of red meat consumption (1.6 servings/day) had a 22% increased breast cancer risk, compared with women in the bottom quintile (0.2 servings/day). Swapping out red meat for poultry or legumes one meal a day was associated with significant risk reductions.

The authors conclude: "Consistent with the American Cancer Society guidelines, replacement of unprocessed and processed red meat with legumes and poultry during early adulthood may help to decrease the risk of breast cancer."

Reader Comments (8)

Ellen C G Grant Physician, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Retired

Rapid responses in the BMJ comment that red meat in the US, unlike in Europe, may contain hormones (such as progestins and estrogens) used in hormonal contraceptives. Also women who were currently using oral contraceptives had higher risk of breast cancer in this US observational study. In my experience in the UK a low allergy lamb and pears diet quickly relieves headaches and migraines; also breast tenderness and benign breast disease in some women.1

1.Grant ECG. Food allergies and migraine. Lancet 1979;1:966-69


How about compare with the meat that countries that don't do chemicals when feeding the animals
Also non GMO for feeing them
Meat is not the same in Argentina.Uruguay Australia or New Zeeland

CARLOS MAITA Physician, Critical Care Medicine

podriamos comparar estudios con paises grandes consumidores de carne ?,como Uruguay ,Argentina e influencia racial.

Navin Mehta, M.B.,B.S. Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, UK

The results of some 60 year old emphasis on red meat which is now generally discredited

Felice ZADRA, MD Physician, Hematology, Milan, ITALY

The statistical significance seems weak. With this study, what will happen has already happened with many other Long-Term Follow-Up studies: after a few years, their value is reduced to nothing, as evidenced by the article "Routine Screening for Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factors Does Improve Clinical Outcomes "published by you.

kristina nadreau DVM Other, retired

the ultimate question is: Are the components of red meat the cause of the increased risk of breast cancer or is the increased risk due to the chemicals ingested by the cattle in their feed and the various "growth enhancing" hormones the cattle are treated with??? A study of the incidence of breast cancer in a population eating red meat free of the chemicals in the feed and untreated with hormones is needed to answer the ultimate question. Is it really the red meaat or is it the chemicals the animal is forced to consume and be treated. with. Cattle were treated with diethyl stilbesterol for many years. the herbicides and pesticides in the processed feed of the cattle industry are never identified for consideration by the customer/patient. Perhaps a study could be done in one of the beef producing countries of Central or South America. Or perhaps a more isolated area of Africa, such as Botswana.


Agree with you

ALiyah Qureshi Physician, Internal Medicine, VA

This is not true, I have seen breast cancer in vegetarian Patients having the similar incidence of occurrence.

Your Comment

(will not be published)

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Do you have any conflict of interest to disclose?
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Vertical Tabs

* Required

Reader comments are intended to encourage lively discussion of clinical topics with your peers in the medical community. We ask that you keep your remarks to a reasonable length, and we reserve the right to withhold publication of remarks that do not meet this standard.

PRIVACY: We will not use your email address, submitted for a comment, for any other purpose nor sell, rent, or share your e-mail address with any third parties. Please see our Privacy Policy.