Wassenbergh/ShutterstockComing in as one of the top foods cancer docs never eat, processed meats already have a pretty bad rep. Now, a brand new study out of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom reveals that eating even small amounts may increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. (As a refresher, check out the eight signs of breast cancer you should never ignore).
Knowing that previous research has linked processed meats to heart disease and colorectal cancer, the researchers—led by the Institute’s director, Dr. Jill P. Pell—investigated whether the meats’ could raise the risk of breast cancer. Dr. Pell and her team began by analyzing data from the UK Biobank, zeroing in on 262,195 women between the ages of 50 and 69; 4,819 of the women had been diagnosed with breast cancer. When she looked into how much processed meat the women ate, she found that those who ate the most—those who averaged more than 9 grams of processed meats a day (the equivalent of two sausages per week)—were 21 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Next, Dr. Pell combined her results with those of 10 other existing studies, allowing her to increase the pool of women to 1.65 million. The link between breast cancer and red and processed meat consumption held for women diagnosed after menopause.
The good news for meat lovers is that Dr. Pell separated out the impact of regular red meat on breast cancer. She found that eating steaks or burgers had no impact on breast cancer risk. Study co-author Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at the University of Glasgow, told the Independent (UK), “If people were to eat less processed meat they might well reduce their risk of breast cancer.”
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