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Grilled Meats Seem to Increase Breast Cancer Risk

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A study adds more to our growing understanding of how dietary habits may influence breast cancer risk. It also shows how environmental factors, such as diet, and genetics can combine to affect breast cancer risk.

The researchers found that women who ate grilled or charbroiled meats more than twice per month were 74% more likely to develop breast cancer than women who didn't eat grilled meat. This difference was significant, meaning that it was likely due to eating the grilled meat, rather than chance.

Also, women who rapidly metabolized the NAT2 enzyme (an enzyme that activates HCAs, the chemical produced in grilled meat linked to cancer) and ate more grilled meat were more likely to develop breast cancer than women who slowly metabolized the NAT2 enzyme and didn't eat grilled meat. The NAT2 metabolism rate is determined by your genes. Aspirin seemed to protect against this increased risk.

So should you throw away your grill and take aspirin to all barbecue events? Probably not. But if you have a choice, meat that is baked or broiled in the oven is probably a better choice. Many times, grilled meats are loaded with high-calorie, high-fat sauces. More research needs to be done on diet and breast cancer, but findings so far suggest that physical activity, a healthy diet (particularly one low in fat and high in vegetables and fiber), and a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of breast cancer or the cancer coming back.

Visit our Nutrition section to learn more about diet and breast cancer. Visit our Lower Your Risk section to learn more about what you can do to reduce your risk of ever getting breast cancer.

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