Researchers from Harvard University say that substituting red meat with a combination of lentils, peas, beans, poultry and fish may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer in young women.
UK experts urge caution however, saying no other studies show a link between red meat and breast cancer. Previous research has shown that eating large amounts of red, processed meat can increase the risk of bowel cancer however.
The new data from the US comes from a study tracking the health of 89,000 women aged between 24 and 43. A team at Harvard School of Public Health analysed the diets of around 3,000 women who developed breast cancer. They reported in the British Medical Journal that:
“Higher red meat intake in early adulthood may be a risk factor for breast cancer, and replacing red meat with a combination of legumes, poultry, nuts and fish may reduce the risk of breast cancer.”
Dr Maryam Farvid and colleagues said the risk is ‘small’.
Prof Tim Key from the University of Oxford said the study in question found “only a weak link” between red meat and breast cancer, and that the result is “not strong enough to change the existing evidence that has found no definite link between the two”.
Prof Key did however comment that women could help reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and drinking less alcohol. He also said it isn’t a bad idea to swap some red meat – which is linked to bowel cancer – for fish, beans and white meat.