Don't have a cow, woman!

A new study links high red-meat consumption with breast cancer.

Rebecca Traister
November 15, 2006 12:24AM (UTC)

Sober -- but useful -- medical news: A new study has found new ways in which red meat is bad for one's health. But these findings suggest it is especially bad for young women.

The Harvard study, published on Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, monitored 90,659 women ages 26 to 46, and found that the more women in their 20s, 30s and 40s ate red meat, the higher their chance of developing a certain kind of estrogen- and progesterone-fueled breast cancer that has been increasing in recent years. Those who ate more than one-and-a-half servings a day (a serving equivalent to a single hamburger) of beef, lamb or pork had twice the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer as those who consumed three or fewer weekly servings.


Obviously, there's lots more research to be done on this topic, since this is the first study to explore the connection between breast cancer and red meat consumption among younger women, and the first to differentiate between different forms of cancer. Some scientists urged caution in response to the report, since research about dietary health is so famously capricious.

But study leader Eunyoung Cho, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told the Washington Post that there are already lots of reasons to be wary of high red-meat consumption, and that "this just may give women another good reason."

Exactly. And since breast cancer is one of those diseases that is so hard to prevent or control, having an inkling that we should lay off the London broil is helpful. Given what we already know about red meat's effects on the arteries, it's probably good advice no matter what further research shows. And for those who love the stuff, it sounds like you don't have to go cold turkey (or lamb). Just aim, as always, for a better balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, delicious fatty acids and nonanimal sources of protein.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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