Younger women who eat more red meat may be at higher risk of a certain kind of breast cancer, perhaps because of hormonal residues in beef cattle and other factors, according to a published study.
Data from a multiyear study involving the health histories of more than 90,000 US nurses show that “in this population of relatively young, premenopausal women, red meat intake was associated with a higher risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer,” said the study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.
Hormone receptor-positive tumors are those that carry certain proteins to which hormones, in this case estrogen and progesterone, bind, helping them grow. Those kinds of tumors have been on the increase in the United States, especially among middle-aged women.
The researchers said they had found that women who ate more than one and one-half servings of red meat per day had almost double the risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer compared with those who ate three or fewer servings per week.
The study began in 1989 when the women were surveyed on eating and other habits. Those in the red meat study were followed from 1991 through 2003. Only women who had not gone through menopause and were cancer-free were included in the analysis.
Worldwide, breast cancer 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.