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Breast Cancer Risk Linked To Red Meat, Study Finds

The risk increased with the amount of red meat consumed, with those who ate more than 1 1/2 servings a day of beef, lamb or pork having nearly double the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer compared with those who ate three or fewer servings per week. A serving is roughly equivalent to a single hamburger or hot dog.

"That's a pretty strong association," said Cho, who is also an associate professor of epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Other researchers praised the study for being well conducted but said more research is needed to confirm and explore the findings.

"The study is well done, and I'm sure it will create some interest to try to replicate the findings," said Eugenia Calle of the American Cancer Society. "But until that happens, we can't draw conclusions about whether this is a true association or something that's just been observed in a single study."

Other experts agreed but noted that the findings are consistent with a growing body of evidence that indicates that diet early in life can affect a person's health risks later on.

"This suggests that lifestyle, in this case diet, in early adulthood is important in potentially explaining your risk for premenopausal breast cancer," said Carolina Hinestrosa of the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

While it may be premature to make formal dietary recommendations based on the findings, the Nurses' Health Study II is so well respected that women should take this new analysis into consideration, she said.

But noting that earlier studies reached the opposite conclusion, Randall D. Huffman, vice president for scientific affairs at the American Meat Institute, said that research into "diet and health is known for its fluid and often contradictory conclusions. This study is a perfect example of that."

"The wisest course of action in the wake of one more contradictory study is to consume the balanced diet recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines," he said.

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