Longtime diet of smoked,
grilled meat puts older women at increased risk of breast cancer
longtime diet of grilled, barbecued and smoked meat puts older women at
increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to a new study led
by a researcher at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health.
Dr. Susan E. Steck and colleagues found that postmenopausal women who
consumed the most grilled, barbecued or smoked meat over their lifetimes
have a 47 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to women
consuming these meats less often.
The risk of breast cancer was elevated by 74 percent in those
postmenopausal women who ate the cooked meats and also consumed fewer
fruit and vegetables.
The findings are published in the May 2007 issue of Epidemiology,
the official journal of the International Society of Environmental
Steck, a research assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology
and Biostatistics and the Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control
Program, said, “Our research supports guidelines that are currently
recommended by the American Cancer Society and the American Institute
for Cancer Research to limit red meat and processed meat intake and to
increase intake of fruits and vegetables.”
The study found a close association with but didn't actually
show that cooked meats caused breast cancer. Other related factors could
be at work, she explained, such as high fat content in the diet of women
who consume these types of meat products.
The study noted that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and
heterocyclic amines are known carcinogens produced by cooking meat at
high temperatures. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are found in
grilled, barbecued and smoked meat (as well as many other foods), while
pan-fried and grilled meat have particularly high heterocyclic amine
Steck said the study compared the lifetime and recent intake
of cooked meat among 1,508 women with breast cancer and 1,556 healthy
women. The data were drawn from the Long Island Breast Cancer Study
Project done in 1996-1997.
Postmenopausal women in the highest two thirds for lifetime
consumption of smoked, grilled or barbecued meats -- more than once a
week -- had a 47 percent greater risk of the disease compared with women
who ate the least amount of meat -- once a week or less.
Significantly, post-menopausal women who
ate plenty of barbecued or smoked meat but few fruits and vegetables
(less than five servings per day) were at a 74 percent increased risk of
However, risk was not elevated
substantially in women consuming high amounts of meat and more than five
servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This supports laboratory
data which suggests that phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables may
protect against carcinogens found in cooked meat.
At the same time, smoked, grilled or barbecued poultry or
fish did not increase breast cancer risk when examined independently of
red meat, the study reported.
The investigators found no significant association between
long- or short-term meat intake and breast cancer in pre-menopausal
Steck joined the USC
faculty in November 2005. She has a doctorate in nutrition from the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests
nutrition and cancer
epidemiology, health disparities in cancer outcomes, and gene-diet
interactions and cancer risk and survival.