Women who eat red meat more than once a day double the risk of getting the most common form of breast cancer, doctors have found.
A study of pre-menopausal women examined the effect of diet on different types of breast cancer and found that those who ate the most meat – especially in processed forms such as hamburgers and sausages – were at the greatest risk of hormone-sensitive breast cancers.
The natural female hormones oestrogen and progesterone are essential for a range of bodily functions but are also responsible for stimulating growth in 70 per cent of breast cancers – those known as hormone receptor positive.
Eunyoung Cho, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who led the study, said there were several reasons red meat triggered this type of breast cancer. They included the treatment of American beef cattle with hormones to speed up growth, carcinogens created when meat was cooked at high temperatures and the presence of a certain form of iron in meat.
Breast cancer is a cancer of breast tissue. Worldwide, it is the most common form of cancer in females, affecting, at some time in their lives, approximately one out of nine to thirteen women who reach age ninety the Western world. It is the second most fatal cancer in women (after lung cancer), and the number of cases has significantly increased since the 1970s, a phenomenon partly blamed on modern lifestyles in the Western world. Because the breast is composed of identical tissues in males and females, breast cancer can also occur in males, although cases of male breast cancer account for less than one percent of the total.