Fresh cancer concerns for red meat

New research has claimed eating red meat could significantly increase the risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

Reports claimed a study, by the University of Leeds monitoring 35,000 women over seven years, found older women who ate one 2oz portion of meat a day had a 56% increased risk compared with those who ate none.

The results, which were published in the British Journal of Cancer, also revealed that those eating processed meats, such as bacon, sausages or ham, had a 64% higher risk of breast cancer.

However, experts warned it was extremely difficult to pin down the effect of specific parts of the diet on cancer risk, and said previous research had produced inconclusive results.

Lead researcher Professor Janet Cade said younger, pre-menopausal women who ate large amounts of red and processed meat also had a raised risk of breast cancer - but the effect was not statistically significant.

However, the researchers claimed that a high overall consumption of meat appeared to raise the risk for women of all ages.

Professor Cade told the BBC: "Meat is high in saturated fat, and saturated fat influences the amount of cholesterol the body makes. Cholesterol is precursor to oestrogen, which has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

"Cooking meat at high temperatures might also form carcinogenic compounds. My advice to women who are consuming relatively high amounts of red and processed meat on a daily basis is to consider reducing their intake."

Meat bosses hit out at the reports, claiming the media coverage was misleading and not supported by the information in the study. They said there was no simple link between cancer and any single food or nutrient.

Experts from the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer also played down the findings, stating it was difficult to separate out the effect of meat from other foods, while differences in age, weight and level of exercise could also play a part in the risk of developing the cancer.

The Leeds research follows on from a US study, published last November, which claimed eating large amounts of red meat might double young women's breast cancer risk.

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