Maryam S Farvid, a visiting scientist and Takemi fellow at Harvard School of Public Health, was first author on two recent studies that found that young women who ate higher amounts of red meat had a higher risk of breast cancer. She answers three questions about her work.

Q: How strong of a link did you find between eating red meat and increased breast cancer risk?

A: We found that women who ate the most red meat in adolescence or early adulthood had an increased risk of developing breast cancer later in life. One serving a day increment in red meat intake during adolescence was associated with a 22% higher risk of premenopausal breast cancer and each serving per day increment during early adulthood was associated with a 13% higher risk of breast cancer overall. Those who ate more poultry during the same period had a lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Of course, red meat is not the only risk factor for breast cancer. And this is an observational study, so we could not say that eating red meat was the only reason these women got cancer. But our analysis took into account most of the known breast cancer risk factors, and we adjusted for smoking, alcohol intake, age, hormone therapy, and oral contraceptive use. Still red meat was one the important breast cancer risk factors.

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