Eating Processed Meats Tied to Breast Cancer Risk

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Eating processed meat is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, a review of studies found.

Most experts believe that processed meats, like hot dogs, bacon, ham and salami, are a carcinogen, but the evidence for the belief has depended mainly on studies of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers.

For this analysis, in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers combined data from 16 prospective observational studies of the association of processed meat with breast cancer.

They found that high consumption of processed meat (about 25 to 30 grams a day, on average) was associated with a 9 percent increased risk for breast cancer compared to those who ate the lowest amounts (0 to 2 grams a day). The association with other red meat consumption was not significant.

The authors acknowledge that these are observational studies that do not draw conclusions about cause and effect, and that none could control for all possible risk factors.

The lead author, Maryam S. Farvid, a researcher in the department of nutrition at Harvard, said that the mechanism is unclear, but that the preservatives in processed meat might be one cause for the link.

In any case, she said, “My recommendation is that it’s good for women to cut down on processed meat.”

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