The researchers in a study found that postmenopausal women who ate a lot of grilled, barbecued, or smoked red meat over the course of their lifetime were 47% more likely to develop breast cancer than those whose intake of such meats was more moderate. If their diet was also low in fruits and vegetables, they were 74% more likely to develop breast cancer.
The researchers couldn’t say whether the red meat and the way it was prepared were direct causes of the increased risk of breast cancer. However, they did note that some substances that form when meat is cooked at high temperatures (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines) are known to be cancer-causing, and could explain the study findings. The high fat content of red meat could be another explanation, as diets high in fat have been shown to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. In November of 2006 another Research News story also looked at how a diet rich in grilled and charbroiled meats increased breast cancer risk.
This story does not specifically indicate how the researchers defined a diet high in grilled, barbecued or smoked red meat, or low in fruits and vegetables. But if you eat grilled or barbecued meats more that a couple of times each month you might want to think about cutting back. If you have a choice, meat that is baked or broiled in the oven is probably the better choice. 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 fruits, vegetables, and fiber), and a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.