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How you cook your meat directly affects your chance of surviving breast cancer

by , 08 February 2017
How you cook your meat directly affects your chance of surviving breast cancer
Attention, ladies!

Do you enjoy your meat smoked, grilled or done on the braai? If you answered “yes”, you'll be shocked to know that a body of past research has linked eating meat cooked in these ways to increased risk of breast cancer.

Even worse, a new study published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has revealed that these meat cooking methods may also lower your chance of surviving breast cancer if you've already been diagnosed with the disease!

American study has linked habitually eating smoked, grilled and barbecued meat to increased risk of death after breast cancer

To reach their findings, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the USA looked at more than 1,500 women who had been diagnosed with cancer in 1996 and 1997. They followed these women for almost 20 years.
 
The women in the study were from Long Island, New York, in the USA. Researchers interviewed them about their eating habits after they were diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of the study, and then again five years later. Researchers considered various factors when classifying the women as having low or high meat intake, including the types of meat they ate and during which seasons.
 
Eighteen years passed and researchers did a follow-up, only to find that 600 of the women had died – 237 from breast cancer-related problems. This prompted the researchers to look into whether or not the amount and type of meat they ate had anything to do with their risk of death during the study period.

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Researchers concluded that eating lots of smoked, grilled and barbecued meat before cancer diagnosis increased a woman’s chance of dying of from any chance by a whopping 23% during the follow-up period compared to those who didn’t eat much meat cooked in this fashion.
 
What’s more, researchers were startled to discover that continuing to eats lots of smoked, grilled and barbecued meat after breast cancer seemed to increase those odds!
 
The three meats that researchers singled out as potentially troublesome included pork, lamb and beef. Study researcher Marille Gammon suggested that methods such as smoking, grilling and barbecuing involve cooking meats at high temperatures, which may produce harmful hydrocarbons and cancer-causing substances.
 

While the study found a link between eating meat cooked in this fashion and breast cancer death risk, it cannot prove cause-and-effect

Study researcher Marilie Gammon, a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explained, “It’s not a randomised clinical trial where participants are randomly allocated to receive the exposure or not.”
 
“This study is the first to report on whether intake of grilled and smoked meat is associated with mortality after breast cancer,” Gammon added.

You can avoid the cancer-causing agents in smoked, grilled and barbecued meat by trimming off excess fat and choosing leaner cuts

The American Cancer Society suggests trimming excess fat off your meat and choosing lean cuts. When fat drips onto smoking hot coals, it can cause smoke that contains harmful cancer-cause agents, and leaner meats produce a lot less smoke when you grill them.
 
You should also stop cooking your meat so that it’s black and charred, the Cancer Society advises. If it’s only a portion of your meat that’s charred, make sure you eat around it.
 
Gammon warned that this area of study is still in the early stages, and that further research is needed to provide breast cancer patients with more specific information on what meat they should and shouldn’t eat. In the mean time, she suggests that patients discuss the issue with their doctors and keep an eye open to additional studies on this topic as they come out.

PS: Go here for our top breast cancer prevention lifestyle recommendations.

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