Modern Australian

Will eating chicken reduce your risk of breast cancer?

  • Written by Rosemary Stanton, Visiting Fellow, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW

Research Checks interrogate newly published studies and how they’re reported in the media. The analysis is undertaken by one or more academics not involved with the study, and reviewed by another, to make sure it’s accurate.

You might have seen headlines recently claiming eating chicken reduces a person’s risk of breast cancer.

These reports were based on a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer this month which examined the links between breast cancer and consumption of red meat and poultry.

It found women who ate chicken had a lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate red meat.

As with all observational studies, this research cannot show cause and effect. The correlation between eating chicken and a lower risk of breast cancer may have more to do with consuming large quantities of red meat than it does with chicken having any protective qualities.

The study

Over almost eight years, researchers followed 42,000 women aged 35-74 involved in the Sister Study in Puerto Rico and the United States. The Sister Study, funded by the US National Institutes of Health, is currently tracking a large cohort of women with view to better understanding the causes of breast cancer.

Some 1,536 cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed among the cohort over the eight-year period. The researchers considered this alongside information on participants’ meat consumption habits, gathered through a series of standardised questionnaires.

An analysis of the women’s diets showed those who consumed the most red meat (beef, veal, pork, lamb, game meats) had a 23% higher risk of being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer than those who consumed small amounts.

By contrast, the women who consumed the most poultry (lean chicken, turkey, duck, goose, quail and pheasant) had a 15% lower risk than those who consumed the least poultry.

The effects were particularly striking in post-menopausal women.

Read more: Research Check: is white meat as bad for your cholesterol levels as red meat?

Notably, neither the red meat group nor the poultry group necessarily ate only one or the other. So it’s likely women eating a lot of poultry were eating less red meat, while women who ate less poultry included more red meat in their diets.

The researchers predicted breast cancer risk would be reduced even further if the women who ate a large amount of red meat switched to poultry.

They accounted for many confounding factors including obesity, age, income, education level, total energy intake, percentage of energy from fat, consumption of vegetables, fruit and dairy products, how long the women breast-fed their infants and their use of hormone therapy.

Even considering all these factors, there was still a significant relationship between invasive breast cancer and a high consumption of red meat.

Limitations

The Sister Study involves women with no previous diagnosis of breast cancer themselves, but all have sisters who have had breast cancer. Since some cases of breast cancer have a genetic component, we should remember this group may have greater susceptibility to breast cancer than the general population.

Unfortunately, the study did not identify any women who avoided all meat, so it doesn’t tell us if a vegetarian diet would have further reduced the risk of breast cancer.

Read more: Three charts on: Australia's declining taste for beef and growing appetite for chicken

Red meat and cancer

Previous studies looking at red meat and breast cancer have reported conflicting results.

One large British report found a small increase in breast cancer with processed meat, but not fresh red meat.

Another major review confirmed the processed meat results and found only a very small increase in breast cancer related to fresh red meat.

Other studies have looked at poultry consumption and breast cancer. None have found significant correlations with breast or other cancers. Several have found inverse relationships similar to those seen in this study.

Will eating chicken reduce your risk of breast cancer? A high consumption of red meat, particularly processed red meat, has been associated with increased cancer risk. From shutterstock.com

Red meat has more definite links with the risk of certain cancers. The World Cancer Research Foundation recommends limiting red meat (beef, lamb, pork, goat) to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. At this stage, it has not extended this advice to breast cancer.

Health concerns about red meat intake also lie in its links to heart disease, which are supported by research evidence.

It’s about quantity

It is useful to look at the quantity of meat consumed by those with the lowest incidence of breast cancer in this study. It was small – no more than 340g of red meat a week, or equivalent to about two average-sized red meat portions a week.

By contrast, the highest incidence of breast cancer occurred in those with a weekly consumption of 775g or more.

The greatest benefit, according to the researchers’ modelling, appeared in women who substituted lean poultry for red meat.

Read more: Confused about your cancer risk from eating meat? Here's what the figures mean

Adding a small amount of red meat to a plant-based diet is unlikely to cause health problems. In modest quantities, red meat can actually make a valuable nutritional contribution, adding iron, protein and vitamin B12.

But problems with red meat relate to the quantity consumed – more is not better.

Sustainability concerns around the methods of red meat production also relate to the quantities consumed. Earlier this year, the Eat-Lancet Commission’s healthy reference diet for sustainable food systems recommended a 50% reduction in global consumption of red meat.

So while this new research doesn’t provide enough evidence to suggest eating chicken is protective against breast cancer, women who currently consume a lot of red meat may find it useful to know poultry is an acceptable alternative.

Blind peer review

The analysis presents a fair, balanced and accurate assessment of the study. In this study, the researchers looked at the impact of consumption of different types of red meat and white meat, and the way the meats were cooked, on the rates of breast cancer.

The researchers showed red meat consumption (which in this study included beef, lamb, veal, pork and game meat) increased the risk of invasive breast cancer, while consuming poultry (including chicken, turkey, ducks, goose, quail, pheasant/game birds) reduced the risk of invasive breast cancer. There was no association shown between the way the meat was cooked and breast cancer risk. – Evangeline Mantzioris

Read more: How to get the nutrients you need without eating as much red meat

Authors: Rosemary Stanton, Visiting Fellow, School of Medical Sciences, UNSW

Read more http://theconversation.com/will-eating-chicken-reduce-your-risk-of-breast-cancer-121628

NEWS

'An insult' – politicians sing the praises of the cashless welfare card, but those forced to use it disagree

The grey cashless debit card cannot be used at any alcohol or gambling outlet, nor used to withdraw cash.www.shutterstock.com“This is a bit controversial, we know that,” deputy prime minister Michael...

As pressure on Iran mounts, there is little room for quiet diplomacy to free detained Australians

Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has offered to help free three detained Australians in Iran, but the attacks on Saudi oil facilities have made the situation vastly more complicated.Stringer/EPAAustralia’s attempts...

Keeping the city cool isn't just about tree cover – it calls for a commons-based climate response

Where’s the shade? Trees are not an immediate or whole answer to keeping cool.Cameron Tonkinwise, Author providedThis story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than...

The Way We Live Now – powerful, troubling photographs of a crowded planet and uncertain future

Cyril Porchet, Swiss born 1984, Untitled 2014 from the series Crowd, inkjet print 139.0 x 169.0 x 3.5 cm.© Cyril PorchetIn 1955, an enormous photographic exhibition, The Family of Man, challenged...

'predatory' climate deniers are a threat to our children

A child jumps from a rock outcrop into a lagoon in the low-lying Pacific island of Tuvalu.AAP/Mick TsikasIn this age of rapidly melting glaciers, terrifying megafires and ever more puissant...

Why it's time for New Zealanders to learn more about their own country's history

New Zealand is one of few places in the world where teaching the country's own history has not been compulsory.from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDFrom 2022, New Zealand history will be taught...

Suddenly, the world's biggest trade agreement won't allow corporations to sue governments

The 16 nations negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership account for almost half the world's population.Shutterstock/DatawrapperThe Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has been touted as the best hope for keeping world...

why are some twins identical and some not?

Identical twins look the same, are the same sex, share the same birthday and shares the same genes. www.shuttershock.com , CC BYIf you have a question you’d like an expert...

Greens' challenge aptly described by Paddy Manning, but with no solutions in sight

Paddy Manning’s excellent account of the Australian Greens will not be the last word on Australia’s most successful third party, but will doubtless remain important and influential for many years...

what happens when magnetic north and true north align?

Very rarely, depending on where you are in the world, your compass can actually point to true north. https://www.shutterstock.comAt some point in recent weeks, a once-in-a-lifetime event happened for...

Jim Chalmers on the need to change economic course

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers says it’s time to change Australia’s economic course “in a responsible and affordable way which doesn’t jeopardise the surplus”.Chalmers predicts the budget outcome for last financial...

Reality slippages and narcissistic stereotyping

Lucy spends much of her life living through her phone screen – what happens when we are let into this vantage point?Mia Forrest/ABCLucy (Charlotte Nicado) is a pink-haired millennial having...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

Best Paradise Islands You Should Visit in AustraliaMost Popular Mexican Destinations for Australian Visitors How to know the universe is guiding you Cancer 101: 6 Dietary Habits Increasing Cancer RiskQuick turnaround in a rental property at Bondi demands frequent rubbish removal4 Basic Decor Principles That Never Go Out Of StyleEvery Day Should Be Mother’s DayGuys, Are You Making These 5 Critical Skincare Mistakes?What To Check For In Supplements And Slimming Aids?Engineered Wood Flooring vs. Laminate Wood Flooring How Panel Beating Can Quickly Repair Your Car’s Hail DamageBenefits of filtered waterCleaning tips for the kitchen Most popular Latin American destinations for AustraliansWhat Is Laser Dentistry?