Processed Meat Increases Breast Cancer Risk

The Physicians Committee

Processed Meat Increases Breast Cancer Risk

January 11, 2018

Processed meat increases breast cancer risk

Processed meat consumption increases risk for breast cancer, according to a study published in the European Journal of Cancer. Researchers reviewed meat consumption and cancer incidence rates for 262,195 women from the UK Biobank over a 7 year period. Those who consumed the most processed meats per day (an average of 20.2 grams per day or less than half the size of a regular hot dog) increased their risk by 21 percent, compared with those who consumed the least. In this study, processed meat was defined as bacon, ham, sausages, meat pies, kebabs, burgers, and chicken nuggets. The authors also conducted a meta-analysis of 11 studies and found overall cancer risk and post-menopausal cancer risk increased with processed meat consumption. Possible mechanisms include heme iron, nitrates and nitrites, and heterocyclic amines found in processed meats. This study adds to accumulating evidence on the relationship between processed meats and breast cancer.

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. 2017;90:73-82.

World Cancer Research Fund International Continuous Update Project (CUP). The associations between food, nutrition and physical activity and the risk of breast cancer. Syst Lit Rev. 2015. Available at: Accessed January 10, 2018.

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