Meat consumption may not increase breast cancer risk

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New finding challenges prevailing theory that women who eat less meat may lower their risk of breast cancer

After following 88,647 women for 18 years, the largest and longest individual study of its kind to date, researcher Michelle Holmes and her co-investigators found no evidence that intake of meat during mid-life and later was associated with risk of breast cancer. Similarly, the data showed no reduced risk among women who were vegetarians. In fact, vegetarians had a slightly increased — though not statistically significant — risk of breast cancer. The results did not change when controlling for a variety of factors including mammogram screening, multivitamin use, food preparation and sugar intake. “Contrary to popular belief, we found no positive association between risk of breast cancer and meat consumption,” said Holmes, of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). “Although more research is required, this finding may bring us one step closer toward defining what dietary habits, if any, are helpful in lowering breast cancer risk.” This finding was the latest result from the landmark BWH-based Nurses’ Health Study. It appear in the Jan. 9, 2003 online issue of the International Journal of Cancer.