Heads up, ladies: Consider swapping poultry for red meat the next time you have the choice, as doing so may reduce the risk of breast cancer, a new study suggests.
The study, published in the International Journal of Cancer, followed the “meat and meat cooking practices” of more than 42,000 women for an average of about eight years. By the end, researchers found women who ate the most amount of red meat had an estimated 23 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate the least amount of red meat. By contrast, women who ate the most poultry had an estimated 15 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who ate the least amount of poultry.
“No associations were observed for cooking practices or chemicals formed when cooking meat at high temperature,” researchers noted in a press release regarding the findings.
"[O]ur study does provide evidence that substituting poultry for red meat may be a simple change that can help reduce the incidence of breast cancer"
“Breast cancer was reduced even further for women who substituted poultry for meat,” they added.
"Red meat has been identified as a probable carcinogen. Our study adds further evidence that red meat consumption may be associated with [an] increased risk of breast cancer whereas poultry was associated with decreased risk,” Dale Sandler of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the study’s senior author, said in a statement.
"While the mechanism through which poultry consumption decreases breast cancer risk is not clear, our study does provide evidence that substituting poultry for red meat may be a simple change that can help reduce the incidence of breast cancer,” he added.
That said, it’s important to note that eating red meat has “not yet been established as a cause of cancer,” the World Health Organization (WHO) says, adding past research on the possible connection focuses primarily on colorectal cancer.
“As always, it is important to remember that association — or correlation — does not imply causation," Paul Pharoah, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology at Cambridge University, told The Sun. He added that “weak associations” were found “between red meat consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer and between poultry consumption and a decreased risk of breast cancer” in the study.
Though red meat is extremely nutritious — high in minerals and vitamins such as B3, B12, and B6, as well as iron and zinc, per Healthline — it is said to be linked to health ailments such as diabetes and heart disease in some cases.
“As with most things, balance is key. Red meat can be an important source of good quality protein and key micronutrients such as iron and zinc, particularly important for women of childbearing age,” Emma Derbyshire, a nutritionist, told The Sun.