Study: Red meat possibly linked to breast cancer

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A long-term study involving thousands of women suggests a link between eating red meat and increased risk of breast cancer, while another says limiting carbs could reduce breast cancer recurrence.

Sarasota resident Maureen Flammer was recently told something no woman wants to hear. “I was diagnosed in February. I have Stage 4 breast cancer.”

The type of cancer Flammer has is HER2, which tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer and estrogen positive. “But when I first got that news that it had metastasized, I freaked out.”

She says she's more aware of health risks associated with red meat consumption than she was prior to diagnosis. “Because I'm heavy, I've been on the Atkins diet a lot. So I may have had more meat, red meat, than some people.”

Now, a twenty-year study involving more than 88,000 women between the ages of 26 to 45 suggests the more red meat a woman ate, the more likely she was to develop breast cancer during the study period.

“There have been several observational studies about linking red meat to breast cancer and to other diseases, like coronary artery disease, strokes, diabetes.” Oncologist Dr. Claudia Mallarino, of Florida Cancer Specialists, says this is an observational study. “It means it increases the risk of breast cancer, but it doesn’t mean that it causes breast cancer. But it is going to be important for women to know that they probably should be eating less red meat.”

Flammer reads all she can on the web, and says she stays away from foods stated to put her more at risk. “Meat and dairy products like cream, specifically that are concentrated with hormones, can cause or contribute to the diagnosis of cancer and the progression of the cancer.”

Another study suggests reducing carbohydrate intake could reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence among women whose tumor tissue is positive for the IGF-1 receptor.

“There are studies showing that women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and are overweight, don't do as well as women who are the normal weight.”

Dr. Mallorino says we know eating a lot of carbohydrates is not good for you, and suggests eating less of them and other foods. “Eating less meat products, eating more vegetables, more nuts, and a Mediterranean diet now has shown decreasing the risk of cancer.”

And Flammer is on board, not just with healthy eating, but also with stress reduction. “I'm very hopeful. I've had a very good result.”