Role of meat and dairy in development of breast cancer?


Question from TinaT: Does consuming meat and dairy play a role in the development of breast cancer? I am a 1-year survivor, and along with other survivors, have given up meat and dairy. Is there any research that backs this information?
Answers - Nicholas Robert, M.D. The concern about the consumption of meat and dairy is a concern both about the consumption of animal fat and the consumption of calories. There is a growing literature to support that not only breast cancer survivors but all of us moderate our intake of both animal fat and calories. In terms of not only cancer prevention, but in terms of general overall health, the more careful we are with our diet, and the need to add exercise to avoid weight gain, the better the health outcome. So for the breast cancer survivor, the limited use of meat and certainly being careful about calories is a worthwhile strategy.
Beth Baughman DuPree, M.D., F.A.C.S. It has been clearly shown that exercise of at least 3 hours of cardiovascular type per week can decrease the risk of developing a breast cancer by approximately 18%. When you look at diet and exercise combined together, if you are taking in more calories than you are burning, there is more substrate for your body to be able to keep as fat stores. Because fat is a source of estrogen production, obviously having higher fat stores can be detrimental, especially for estrogen-driven breast cancer and for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. Many women do not understand that, although their ovaries are thought to be one of the only sources of estrogen production, that we have an enzyme that is very powerful in our adrenal glands called aromatase that is very effective at producing estrogen sources from our body's fat stores. So I do not tell my patients that they have to stop eating meat or dairy sources. I believe it's far more important to, once again, practice balance in this aspect of cancer prevention and treatment. As a society, particularly in the U.S.A., the level of obesity has become an epidemic. If you want to have an idea of this larger picture, the Center for Disease Control has an excellent resource that can show you the map of the U.S. and the relative levels of obesity over the last 50 years. The take-home message from this is not that you need to stop eating meat or dairy, but that you need to take a look at your overall level of health and well-being, and once again, practice moderation and not necessarily abstinence.

On Wednesday, June 24, 2009, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Updates from the ASCO Annual Meeting. Nick Robert, M.D. and Beth Baughman Dupree, M.D., F.A.C.S. answered your questions about the newest findings on risk, screening, treatment, and more.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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