The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Meat consumption and breast cancer risk

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Studies have looked at breast cancer risk among people who eat a lot of meat (total amount of meat eaten as well as certain types of meat, such as red meat and poultry).

Although a few studies suggest eating a lot of meat may increase the risk of breast cancer, most studies have not found a link between the two. This topic is still under study.

Learn more about meat consumption and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer.

 

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Komen Perspectives

Read our perspective on meat consumption and breast cancer risk.*

*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.

 

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies with at least 1,000 cases, pooled analyses and meta-analyses.

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.

Study

Study Population
(number of participants)

Follow-up
(years)

Type of Meat

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women with the Highest Meat Intake versus Women with the Lowest Meat Intake,
RR (95% CI)

Prospective cohort studies

NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study [1]

193,742
(9,305 cases)

9

Total meat:

6 or more vs.
1 serving/week†

1.06
(0.99-1.13)

   

Red meat:

3 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week†

1.04
(0.97-1.13)

   

White meat:

4 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week†

1.03
(0.97-1.11)

   

Processed meat:
 
1 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week†

1.04
(0.97-1.12)

EPIC [2]

319,826
(7,119 cases)

9

Red meat:

5 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.06
(0.98-1.14)

   

Poultry:

3 vs.
0 servings/week

1.02
(0.95-1.11)

   

Processed meat:

3 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.10
(1.00-1.20)

UK Biobank [3]

262,195
(4,819 cases)

7

Red meat:

More than 1 vs.
0 servings/week

0.99
(0.88-1.12)

 

 

 

Processed meat:

More than ½ vs.
0 servings/week

1.21
(1.08-1.35)

Nurses’ Health Study [4]

88,647
(4,107 cases)

18

Total meat:

14 or more vs.
7 or fewer
servings/week

0.89
(0.79-1.00)‡

   

Red meat:

9 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

0.94
(0.84-1.05)‡

   

Poultry:

4 or more vs.
1 or fewer
servings/week

1.01
(0.91-1.11)‡

Swedish Mammography Cohort [5]

61,433
(2,952 cases)

17

Red meat:

6 vs.
3 servings/week

0.98
(0.86-1.12)

Nurses’ Health Study II [6-7]

88,803
(2,830 cases)

19

Red meat:

11 or more vs.
1 serving/week‡

1.22
(1.06-1.40)

   

Chicken or turkey:

6 vs.
1 serving/week‡

0.91
(0.80-1.03)

 

44,231
(1,132 cases)

 

Red meat during the teen years:

18 vs.
Fewer than 5 servings/week

1.17
(0.94-1.44)§

UK Women’s Cohort Study [8]

35,372
(1,750 cases)

8

Total meat:

28 or more vs.
0 servings/week

1.34
(1.05-1.71)†

   

Red meat:
 
14 or more vs.
0 servings/week 

1.41
(1.11-1.81)¶

   

 Poultry:
 
7 or more vs.
0 servings/week

1.22
(0.95-1.56)†

   

 Processed meat

7 or more vs.
0 servings/week

1.39
(1.09-1.78)||

Sister Study [9]

42,012
(1,536 cases)

8

Red meat:

3 or more vs.
Less than 1 serving/week

1.23
(1.02-1.48)

 

 

 

Processed meat:

2 or more vs.
Less than 1 serving/week

0.97
(0.80-1.17)

 

 

 

Poultry:

3 or more vs.
Less than 1 serving/week

0.85
(0.72-1.00)

Black Women’s Health Study [10]

52,062
(1,268 cases)

12

Red meat:

3 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.02
(0.83-1.24)

 

 

 

Processed meat:

2 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

0.99
(0.82-1.20)

PLCO Cancer Screening Trial [11]

52,158
postmenopausal women
(1,205 cases)

6

Red meat:

3 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.23
(1.00-1.51)

   

White meat:

4 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.01
(0.84-1.22)

   

Processed meat:

1 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.12
(0.92-1.36)

   

 Grilled or well-done meat:

1 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.20
(0.99-1.45)

Pooled and meta-analyses

Alexander et al. [12]

1 pooled analysis and
10 cohort studies

 

Red meat

1.07
(0.98-1.17)

   

Processed meat

1.08
(1.01-1.16)

Missmer et al. [13]

351,041

up to 15

Total meat

1.08
(0.98-1.19)

   

Red meat

0.94
(0.87-1.02)

   

White meat

1.02
(0.91-1.13)

Farvid et al. [14]

15 cohort and nested case-control studies

 

Processed meat

1.09
(1.03-1.16)

 

13 cohort and nested case-control studies

 

Red meat

1.06
(0.99-1.14)

Guo et al. [15]

14 cohort and nested case-control studies

 

Red meat

1.10
(1.02-1.19)

 

12 cohort and nested case-control studies

 

Processed meat

1.08
(1.01-1.15)

Wu et al. [16]

14 cohort studies

 

Processed meat

1.07
(1.01-1.14)

 

12 cohort studies

 

Red meat

1.05
(0.95-1.16)

Anderson et al. [3]

10 cohort studies

 

Red meat

1.03
(0.99-1.08)

 

8 cohort studies

 

Processed meat

1.06
(1.01-1.11)

Taylor et al. [17]

3 cohort studies
of premenopausal women

 

Red meat

1.11
(0.94-1.31)

Boyd et al. [18]

45 studies

 

Total meat

1.13
(1.01-1.25)

† Servings per week were estimated from grams per day.

‡ Results were similar when data for premenopausal and postmenopausal women were examined separately.

§ Among premenopausal women, the relative risk of breast cancer was 1.43 (1.05-1.94) and among postmenopausal women, relative risk was 0.99 (0.72-1.37).

¶ Among premenopausal women, the relative risk of breast cancer was 1.13 (0.99-1.29) and among postmenopausal women, relative risk was 1.12 (1.01-1.26).

|| Among premenopausal women, the relative risk of breast cancer was 1.45 (0.95-2.23) and among postmenopausal women, relative risk was 1.64 (1.19-2.27).

References

  1. Inoue-Choi M, Sinha R, Gierach GL, Ward MH. Red and processed meat, nitrite, and heme iron intakes and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Int J Cancer. 138(7):1609-18, 2016.
  2. Pala V, Krogh V, Berrino F, et al. Meat, eggs, dairy products, and risk of breast cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 90(3):602-12, 2009.
  3. Anderson JJ, Darwis NDM, Mackay DF, et al. Red and processed meat consumption and breast cancer: UK Biobank cohort study and meta-analysis. Eur J Cancer. 90:73-82, 2018.
  4. Holmes MD, Colditz GA, Hunter DJ, et al. Meat, fish and egg intake and risk of breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 104(2):221-7, 2003.
  5. Larsson SC, Bergkvist L, Wolk A. Long-term meat intake and risk of breast cancer by oestrogen and progesterone receptor status in a cohort of Swedish women. Eur J Cancer. 45(17):3042-6, 2009.
  6. Farvid MS, Cho E, Chen WY, Eliassen AH, Willett WC. Dietary protein sources in early adulthood and breast cancer incidence: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 348:g3437, 2014.
  7. Farvid MS, Cho E, Chen WY, Eliassen AH, Willett WC. Adolescent meat intake and breast cancer risk. Int J Cancer. 136(8):1909-20, 2015.
  8. Taylor EF, Burley VJ, Greenwood DC, Cade JE. Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer in the UK Women’s Cohort Study. Br J Cancer. 96(7):1139-46, 2007.
  9. Lo JJ, Park YM, Sinha R, Sandler DP. Association between meat consumption and risk of breast cancer: Findings from the Sister Study. Int J Cancer. 2019 Aug 6 [Epub ahead of print].
  10. Genkinger JM, Makambi KH, Palmer JR, Rosenberg L, Adams-Campbell LL. Consumption of dairy and meat in relation to breast cancer risk in the Black Women’s Health Study. Cancer Causes Control. 24(4):675-84, 2013.
  11. Ferrucci LM, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, et al. Intake of meat, meat mutagens, and iron and the risk of breast cancer in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Br J Cancer. 101(1):178-84, 2009.
  12. Alexander DD, Morimoto LM, Mink PJ, Cushing CA. A review and meta-analysis of red and processed meat consumption and breast cancer. Nutr Res Rev. 23(2):349-65, 2010.
  13. Missmer SA, Smith-Warner S-A, Spiegelman D, et al. Meat and dairy food consumption and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Int J Epidemiol. 31(1):78-85, 2002.
  14. Farvid MS, Stern MC, Norat T, et al. Consumption of red and processed meat and breast cancer incidence: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Cancer. 143(11):2787-2799, 2018 .
  15. Guo J, Wei W, Zhan L. Red and processed meat intake and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 151(1):191-8, 2015.
  16. Wu J, Zeng R, Huang J, et al. Dietary protein sources and incidence of breast cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Nutrients. 8(11): 730, 2016.
  17. Taylor VH, Misra M, Mukherjee SD. Is red meat intake a risk factor for breast cancer among premenopausal women? Breast Cancer Res Treat. 117(1):1-8, 2009.
  18. Boyd NF, Stone J, Vogt KN, Connelly BS, Martin LJ, Minkin S. Dietary fat and breast cancer risk revisited: a meta-analysis of the published literature. Br J Cancer. 89(9):1672-85, 2003.

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