Breast Cancer and Red Meat: An Inside Look

It is no secret that Americans love red meat. Whether it’s steak, burgers, or barbeque, the allure of red meat is almost impossible to deny. So much so that in early 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that the average American would consume 222.2 pounds of red meat this year alone. With the current domestic product for livestock surpassing well over 199 billion pounds, the consumption of red meat won’t be stopping any time soon.

However, meat lovers beware: a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that a significantly high intake of red meat can pose a higher risk of breast cancer in young women.

Red Meat Consumption and Breast Cancer

Published in June 2014, the study followed the diets of roughly 89,000 women between the ages of 24 to 43 over the course of 20 years. Researchers found that women who regularly consume red meat from an early age possess a 22% risk of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer. In fact, daily servings of red meat showed an increased risk of breast cancer to 13%.

Researchers also took a number of external factors into account. Adjustments were made for age, hormone therapy, contraceptive use, and vices that included smoking and drinking.

Other Findings: Breast Cancer Risk Factors

In addition to the findings from the Harvard School of Public Health, the American Cancer Society has classified both red and processed meat as ‘carcinogens’; substances that could promote the formation of cancer in the body. Processed meat is listed as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that there is evidence that consumption can lead to the development of cancer. Red meat, on the other hand, is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen; meaning that it could potentially lead to the presence of cancer in the body.

Cutting Out Red Meat

While it can be argued that lean cuts of red meat can be a great source of protein and nutrients such as vitamin B12, doctors across the board suggest cutting down. This means maintaining a balanced diet of fish, poultry, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes instead. These kinds of food can serve as healthier and sustainable protein sources that could prevent the development of breast cancer in young women.

Today’s Woman & Breast Cancer Awareness

The concept of cutting down on or avoiding red meat is not a difficult shift for many young women. Today, women are conscious and proactive about their bodies. In the last few years alone, women as young as 20 have taken the initiative to decrease their chances of developing breast cancer, either through lifestyle change or pre-emptive surgery. Just being aware alone is often a major first step.

Striking a Balance

Granted, there is nothing wrong with eating red meat every now and again. Whether it’s a well-deserved steak or a burger, these dishes are often seen as a hard-earned treat after a day of heavy exercise or intense work at the office. A little red meat on occasion won’t do any harm.

If anything, the secret to living a truly healthy life is not by avoiding meat, but by living in balance and moderation. Through a healthy diet and regular exercise, young women will have the strength to protect their bodies from dangerous diseases such as breast cancer.