Choosing white meat may trim breast cancer risk

Good news for women who can't quite bring themselves to go vegetarian, but don't mind giving up burgers and steaks: A new study finds red meat may increase breast cancer risk, while substituting poultry may lower it.

The study, in the International Journal of Cancer, followed 42,012 women for an average of 7.6 years.

The researchers, led by Columbia University epidemiologist Jamie J. Lo, found that women who consumed the most red meat — a quarter of a pound or more per day — had a 23% higher risk of invasive breast cancer compared with women who consumed the lowest amount. Meanwhile, women with the highest consumption of poultry had a 15% lower risk than those with the lowest consumption.

The magnitude of the effects, good or bad, on breast cancer risk was relatively small. And the new study is just the latest to weigh in on an unsettled area of research.

"While the mechanism through which poultry consumption decreases breast cancer risk is not clear," senior author Dale P. Sandler of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences said in a press release, "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."

— Marie McCullough, The Philadelphia Inquirer