Meat contributes to development of cancer?


Question from KayM: I have become a vegetarian since reading "The China Study" by Campbell & Campbell last January. The evidence seems overwhelming that eating meat contributes to the development of breast cancer and other cancers too, i.e. the new Harvard study on breast cancer/red meat, plus other studies showing a relationship between red meat and colon cancer and prostate cancer. I wonder why I never hear much about this from doctors?
Answers - Jennifer Sabol, M.D., F.A.C.S. From the standpoint of someone who sees most women after their diagnosis of cancer, I think breast cancer surgeons tend not to want to make anybody feel bad for their lifestyle choices up to that point. So it is difficult to discuss issues of what someone has or has not eaten once they've already been diagnosed. It is also such a prominent way of life in this country to consume meat products that it is a very difficult thing to ask patients to change when there are so many other things, like cigarettes, that we can encourage people to give up. So it's difficult to ask them to give up their meat.

While I agree that some of the studies are interesting and do suggest that there may be some correlation, I think that balance in your diet is essential and it's very difficult for someone like yourself to give up meat entirely. It's a lot of work to maintain a well balanced diet in that situation, to get in enough protein to maintain a healthy body. For that reason, I think there are so many other things that are at least easier to modify in people's lifestyle in terms of risk or illnesses that it may not be addressed as frequently as potentially it should be.
Diana Dyer, M.S., R.D. Doctors have very little nutrition education in their medical training, and therefore in the ideal world there are doctors who are working in partnership with dietitians who can help people assess their individual risk factors, and help them work on developing the healthiest diet possible from the point of diagnosis forward; concentrating on the future and what can be changed in the future to optimize health and wellness after treatment is completed, rather than focusing on what may or may not have been done in the past to contribute to the cancer.

On Wednesday, November 15, 2006, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Eating and Drinking Through the Holidays. Diana Dyer, M.S., R.D. and moderator Jennifer Sabol, M.D. answered your questions about how to stay healthy during the most hectic, high-calorie time of year.

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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