Consumption of Meat, Animal Products, Protein, and Fat and Risk of Breast Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study in New York

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Epidemiologic studies have focused on the association between diet and breast cancer with conflicting results. Whereas a majority of case-control studies indicate a role for the intake of total fat and saturated fat, most prospective cohort studies either are negative or indicate very modest associations. Only a few authors have examined the role of meat intake in relation to breast cancer risk. The aim of this study was to examine the relation between risk of breast cancer and dietary intake of meat, animal products, fat, and protein. Between 1985 and 1991, we recruited 14,291 New York City women in a prospective cohort study of endogenous hormones, diet, and cancer in which they reported on their recent diet using a food frequency questionnaire self-administered at enrollment. From the cohort, 180 invasive breast cancer cases diagnosed before December 1990 and five times as many controls, individually matched by age, calendar time at enrollment, menopausal status, and, if premenopausal, phase of menstrual cycle, were included in a nested case-control study. There was an evident increase in the relative risk (RR) of breast cancer for increasing consumption of meat. Women in the upper quintile of meat consumption, as compared with the lowest quintile, had an energy-adjusted RR of 1.87 (95% confidence interval = 1.09–3.21). There was a modest RR increase in the upper quintile of total and saturated fat and no apparent association for other types of fat, protein, dairy products, poultry, or fish. The study indicates that the elevated consumption of certain foods of animal origin, such as red meat, may be a factor in explaining the postulated role of diet in breast cancer etiology.

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