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Eating Lots of Meat May Increase Risk

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A study strongly suggests that eating large amounts of red and processed meats can increase breast cancer risk. The increase in risk was greatest for postmenopausal women:

  • A 56% greater risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women who ate 2 ounces or more of red meat per day.
  • A 64% greater risk of breast cancer in women who ate three-quarters of an ounce or more of processed meats (cold cuts for example) per day.

Eating large amounts of red and processed meats was associated with a 20% greater risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.

Several facts make these research findings important:

  1. The study was large, with more than 35,000 women participating.
  2. The women were followed for eight years—a relatively long period of time.
  3. The researchers' analysis showed that the higher breast cancer risk was truly related to red and processed meats in the diet and not from other possible factors such as overall diet, age, weight, exercise habits, or smoking.

Does this mean red and processed meats in your diet are bad? Not if you eat them in moderation. Balance is the key to managing your diet as you work to lower your breast cancer risk. A healthy, balanced diet includes a wide variety of foods from all the food groups. It's best to choose the most nutritionally-rich foods you can from each food group each day. Pick foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. You may want to consider organic foods.

Visit the breastcancer.org Nutrition section for more information on healthy eating. Visit the breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section to learn how you can reduce your risk of breast cancer as much as possible.

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