Meta-analysis highlights link between processed meat and breast cancer


Studies regarding the link between processed meat and risk of breast cancer have presented inconsistent results. This problem was addressed by a recently published meta-analysis in the International Journal of Cancer, examining 15 studies published on the subject. 

The multivariable‐adjusted relative risk from the studies was combined, comparing the highest with the lowest category. From this the reviewers concluded that high processed meat consumption increased the risk of developing breast cancer by 9%. No significant association was observed between unprocessed red meat intake and cancer risk.

Two studies that investigated the effect of the genotype for the N-acetyltransferase 2 acetylator enzyme, thought to modify the carcinogenic effect of meat, did not observe a significant association for either individuals with fast or slow allele for enzyme activity.

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“Previous works linked increased risk of some types of cancer to higher processed meat intake, and this recent meta-analysis suggests that processed meat consumption may also increase breast cancer risk” said lead author Maryam Farvid, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (MA, USA), “therefore, cutting down processed meat seems beneficial for the prevention of breast cancer.”

Sources: 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 doi:10.1002/ijc.31848 (2018); www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-10/w-aop100218.php