Red meat has long been linked to pancreatic and colon cancer but now there’s a fresh threat. For those who enjoy a good, juicy hamburger or a well-cooked steak, a new study says those meals could be increasing your chances of developing breast cancer.

Analyzing information from over 88,000 women between the ages of 26-45 who completed surveys about their eating habits back in 1991, researchers at Harvard University saw the ladies' meat intake ranged from never to six or more servings each day. According to AP, the first findings from this study were published back in 2006 exposing a preliminary link between red meat and breast cancer after 12 years. Now, the research group was able to supply more in-depth information on the connection as well as its effect on other breast cancer types.

Using a statistical model, scientists estimated that in women who ate the most amount of red meat, there were an extra 6.8 cases of breast cancer for every 1,000 women over 20 years of follow-up. … In developed countries, women have about a 12.5 percent chance of developing breast cancer.

Scientists suspect proteins in red meat speed up cell division and tumor growth; chemicals such as nitrates in processed meats are already classified as probable carcinogens.

Sally Greenbrook, a senior policy officer at the U.K. charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, says these findings pinpoint the importance of a “healthy diet” and suggested women reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by “staying slim, and exercising and drinking in moderation.”

Still, she says there isn’t enough hard evidence about the connection between breast cancer and red meat just yet to revise prevention rules.

Elsewhere Valerie Beral, a cancer expert at Oxford University, think the link between red meat and breast cancer is tenuous at best. Beral points out that vegetarians don’t possess a reduced risk of breast cancer than steak lovers. But, she adds, women eating the American Cancer Society’s recommended “plant-based” diet in their 20s can't hurt.

"Breasts are still developing and are more susceptible to carcinogens before women have their first full-term pregnancy," said Mia Gaudet, director of genetic epidemiology at the American Cancer Society. "It's important to have a healthy lifestyle throughout your life and not just as you get older and more worried about cancer. People should perhaps consider ordering a salad or a vegetarian option sometime."


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