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Table 18: Meat consumption and breast cancer risk

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables offer an informative look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, they should be viewed with some caution. In order to read and interpret research tables successfully, it is important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Countries where people eat a lot of meat tend to have higher rates of breast cancer than those where people eat little or no meat. This suggests that eating meat may be a potential risk factor for breast cancer.

Studies have looked at breast cancer risk among people with diets high in meat (total meat as well as certain types of meat such as red meat and poultry). Although a few studies suggest eating a lot of meat may increase the risk of breast cancer, most studies have not found a link between the two. This topic is still under study. 

Learn more about meat consumption and breast cancer risk.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

See how this risk factor compares with other risk factors for breast cancer

 

 Komen Perspectives  

Read our perspective on meat consumption and breast cancer risk
(July 2010).*
 

*Please note, the information provided within Komen Perspectives articles is only current as of the date of posting. Therefore, some information may be out of date at this time.   

 

Study selection criteria: Prospective cohort studies with at least 450 cases, pooled analyses and meta-analyses

Table note: Relative risk above 1 indicates increased risk. Relative risk below 1 indicates decreased risk.  

Study 

Study Population
(number of participants)
 

Follow-up
(years)
 

Type of Meat 

Relative Risk of Breast Cancer in Women with the Highest Meat Intake versus Women with the Lowest Meat Intake,
RR (95% CI)
 

Prospective cohort studies 

EPIC [1]

319,826
(7,119 cases)

9

Red meat:

5 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.06 (0.98-1.14) 

     

Poultry:

3 vs.
0 servings/week

1.02 (0.95-1.11)

     

Processed meat:

3 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week 

1.10 (1.00-1.20)

Nurses' Health Study [2]

88,647
(4,107 cases)

18

Total meat:

14 or more vs.
7 or fewer
servings/week

0.89 (0.79-1.00)†

     

Red meat:

9 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

0.94 (0.84-1.05)†

     

Poultry:

4 or more vs.
1 or fewer
servings/week

1.01 (0.91-1.11)†

NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study [3]

120,755
(3,818 cases)

8

Total meat:

5 or more vs.
2 servings/week‡

1.03 (0.93-1.15)

       Red meat:

3 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week‡ 

1.05 (0.93-1.18)

     

White meat:

3 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week‡

0.93 (0.84-1.04)

     

Processed meat:

1 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week‡

1.00 (0.90-1.12)

     

Meat cooked at high temperatures:

1 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week‡ 

0.98 (0.86-1.11)

Swedish Mammography Cohort [4]

61,433
(2,952 cases)

17

Red meat:

6 vs.
3 servings/week

0.98 (0.86-1.12)

Black Women's Health Study [5]

52,062
(1,268 cases)

12

Red meat:

3 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week 

 1.02 (0.83-1.24)

 

 

 

Processed meat:

2 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week 

0.99 (0.82-1.20) 

PLCO Cancer Screening Trial [6]

52,158
postmenopausal women
(1,205 cases)

6

Red meat:

3 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.23 (1.00-1.51)

     

White meat:

4 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.01 (0.84-1.22)

     

Processed meat:

1 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.12 (0.92-1.36)

     

 Grilled or well-done meat:

1 vs.
Less than 1
serving/week

1.20 (0.99-1.45)

Nurses' Health Study II [7]

88,803
(2,830 cases)

19

Red meat:

11 or more vs.
1 serving/week‡

1.22 (1.06-1.40)

   

 

Chicken or turkey:

6 vs.
1 serving/week‡

0.91 (0.80-1.03)

   

 

Red meat during adolescence:

18 vs.
Fewer than 5
servings/week‡

1.18 (1.06-1.33)

UK Women's Cohort Study [8]

35,372
(1,750 cases)

8

Total meat:

28 or more vs.
0 servings/week

1.34 (1.05-1.71)†

     

Red meat:

14 or more vs.
0 servings/week

1.41 (1.11-1.81)§ 

     

Poultry:

7 or more vs.
0 servings/week

1.22 (0.95-1.56)†

     

Processed meat:

7 or more vs.
0 servings/week

1.39 (1.09-1.78)¶

Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort [9]

15,773
postmenopausal women
(544 cases) 

10

Meat:

4 or more vs.
Less than 1
serving/week 

0.89 (0.68-1.16)||

     

Fish:

2 or more vs.
0 servings/week

0.99 (0.76-1.29)||

Pooled and meta-analyses 

Alexander et al. [10]

1 pooled analysis and
10 cohort studies

 

Red meat

1.07 (0.98-1.17)

     

Processed meat

1.08 (1.01-1.16)

Missmer et al. [11]

351,041

up to 15

Total meat

1.08 (0.98-1.19)

     

Red meat

0.94 (0.87-1.02)

     

White meat

1.02 (0.91-1.13)

Taylor et al. [12]

3 cohort studies
of premenopausal women

 

Red meat

1.11 (0.94-1.31)

Boyd et al. [13]

45 studies

 

Total meat

1.13 (1.01-1.25)

† Results were similar when data for premenopausal and postmenopausal women were examined separately.

‡ Servings per week estimated from grams per day.

§ Among premenopausal women, the relative risk of breast cancer was 1.13 (0.99-1.29) and among postmenopausal women, relative risk was 1.12 (1.01-1.26).

¶ Among premenopausal women, the relative risk of breast cancer was 1.45 (0.95-2.23) and among postmenopausal women, relative risk was 1.64 (1.19-2.27).  

|| Results are for fatty meat and fatty fish. Relative risks for highest versus lowest intakes of lean meat and lean fish were similar, 1.15 (0.89-1.50) and 0.87 (0.67-1.14), respectively. 

  

References  

  1. Pala V, Krogh V, Berrino F, et al. Meat, eggs, dairy products, and risk of breast cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 90(3):602-12, 2009.
  2. Holmes MD, Colditz GA, Hunter DJ, et al. Meat, fish and egg intake and risk of breast cancer. Int J Cancer. 104(2):221-7, 2003.
  3. Kabat GC, Cross AJ, Park Y, et al. Meat intake and meat preparation in relation to risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in the NIH-AARP diet and health study. Int J Cancer. 124(10):2430-5, 2009.
  4. Larsson SC, Bergkvist L, Wolk A. Long-term meat intake and risk of breast cancer by oestrogen and progesterone receptor status in a cohort of Swedish women. Eur J Cancer. 45(17):3042-6, 2009.
  5. Genkinger JM, Makambi KH, Palmer JR, Rosenberg L, Adams-Campbell LL. Consumption of dairy and meat in relation to breast cancer risk in the Black Women's Health Study. Cancer Causes Control. 2013 Jan 18. [Epub ahead of print].
  6. Ferrucci LM, Cross AJ, Graubard BI, et al. Intake of meat, meat mutagens, and iron and the risk of breast cancer in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Br J Cancer. 101(1):178-84, 2009.
  7. Farvid MS, Cho E, Chen WY, Eliassen AH, Willett WC. Dietary protein sources in early adulthood and breast cancer incidence: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 348:g3437, 2014.
  8. Taylor EF, Burley VJ, Greenwood DC, Cade JE. Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer in the UK Women's Cohort Study. Br J Cancer. 96(7):1139-46, 2007.
  9. Wirfält E, Li C, Manjer J, et al. Food sources of fat and sex hormone receptor status of invasive breast tumors in women of the Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort. Nutr Cancer. 63(5):722-33, 2011.
  10. Alexander DD, Morimoto LM, Mink PJ, Cushing CA. A review and meta-analysis of red and processed meat consumption and breast cancer. Nutr Res Rev. 23(2):349-65, 2010.
  11. Missmer SA, Smith-Warner S-A, Spiegelman D, et al. Meat and dairy food consumption and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies. Int J Epidemiol. 31(1):78-85, 2002.
  12. Taylor VH, Misra M, Mukherjee SD. Is red meat intake a risk factor for breast cancer among premenopausal women? Breast Cancer Res Treat. 117(1):1-8, 2009.
  13. Boyd NF, Stone J, Vogt KN, Connelly BS, Martin LJ, Minkin S. Dietary fat and breast cancer risk revisited: a meta-analysis of the published literature. Br J Cancer. 89(9):1672-85, 2003.

Updated 06/23/14