Consider this before your next grocery store trip: Poultry may be protective against breast cancer while red meat could boost the risk.
Those are the findings by a group of U.S. researchers who studied the eating habits of more than 42,000 women for almost eight years. The conclusion by National Institutes of Health and Columbia University scientists was published in the International Journal of Cancer.
Among the study group, more than 1,500 breast cancer cases were noted. Eating more red meat was associated with an increased risk of invasive breast cancer. There was a 23% higher risk among those who ate the most red meat compared with those who ate the least.
Eating poultry can have the opposite effect, the researchers found. Women who consumed the most poultry had a 15% lower risk of breast cancer than those who ate the least. The incidence of breast cancer was reduced even more among women who completely switched their diet from red meat to poultry.
The findings were unchanged after known breast cancer risk factors and other lifestyle factors such as income, physical activity and alcohol consumption were considered. There was no association between cancer risk and how the meats were cooked.
What still isn’t known is the mechanism that causes poultry consumption to reduce breast cancer risk. Still, researchers said the study provides evidence that a simple dietary change can reduce that danger. For those looking to reduce their risk of breast cancer, it may be beneficial to completely replace red meat with poultry.
So if breast cancer risk is a concern, don’t play chicken with your health. Just lighten up on the red meat.