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Gifted Gourmet

Beef and breast cancer

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article from the Washington Post

When the researchers analyzed the data from 1991 to 2003, they found no overall link between red meat consumption and an increased risk of breast cancer. But when they examined the data from only the 512 women who developed the type of breast cancer whose growth is fueled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone, they found an association. 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.

Even if one is cautious, is beef our arch enemy? We already knew about the link between beef and cancer of the colon but this study offers new insights ...

Would these new findings cause you to:

(a) pause and rethink your love for beef?

(b) cause you to continue eating beef and ignore all this data?

© pass this information on to female relatives, friends, etc.?

(d) become a vegan (as my daughter has)?

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Maybe the EU was right after all. Growth hormones in animals has long been the subject of EU-US controversy.

On a purely personal and non-scientific level, I don't like the idea of animals being injected with hormones, as my gut feeling is that it isn't a good idea. The quote in italics, above, seems telling to me.

I stress, my view is based on no science whatsoever, and is possibly biased by some bizarre and misplaced national pride.

Si

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Even though I am a male and the findings of this study pertain only to premenopausal women, it would not affect my love of beef at all even if I were a woman. I think this is an interesting report, but there are some caveats:

First and foremost, this is a correlative study, showing that there is merely a statistical trend between factor A (incidence of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer) and factor B (frequency of consumption of red meat). It is impossible to conclude from these studies that eating more red meat directly causes hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. Other factors could be involved in producing these results.

For instance, one could report that there are more car accidents when more people are walking outside with umbrellas. Obviously, the direct cause of both car accidents and people using umbrellas is rain, and people with umbrellas aren't causing car accidents.

Second, it is important to take the numbers they report in context of their total findings. They report relative risk, which is the risk of developing a disease relative to exposure (in this case, exposure to red meat). Wikipedia uses the following example to illustrate relative risk: if the probability of lung cancer among smokers is 20% and among non-smokers 10%, then the relative risk of cancer associated with smoking would be 2.

Though the study showed that those who consumed the most red meat had nearly twice the risk of those who ate red meat infrequently, you also have to look at the absolute risk. This study followed 90,659 women, and the number of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer patients was 512. That's 0.5% of the total number of people studied where they were able to detect a statistically significant difference.

So, a two-fold increase in risk may sound scary, but take it in context. If 2 pickle-eating people out of 500 got cancer compared to 1 non-pickle-eating person, the relative risk is 2, but does that mean we should stop eating pickles?

All in all, I think this is an interesting report, and a lot of patients were followed to do this study, but all aspects of this study, along with other studies, should be thoroughly considered. In addition, as was mentioned by the researchers, more studies must be conducted to confirm this.

I must disclose that I am only a medical student and therefore not a licensed medical professional. Please consult your physician for advice when changing dietary habits.

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I read this article in this morning's paper and immediately emailed it to my friends who are being very careful due to unfortunate family histories. Some people can take more risk than others.

Correlations and averages aside, the "nurse study" is one of if not the longest-running, largest, and best-documented studies of women's health ever performed. Those of us who lack y chromosomes and are concerned about our health have been following the results with great interest. At the very least, these results will spawn tightly controlled follow-up experiments. In the meantime, what's so bad about organic and hormone-free?

-L

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One and one-half servings of red meat per day is quite a bit! For several other reasons I can think of I wouldn't recommend eating that much meat.

And I like meat! :huh:

SB (suspicious of all studies and statisitcs) :hmmm:

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I am curious to see if the link is caused by red meat per se or the hormones fed to cattle. Are "industrially" (for lack of a better word) produced broiler chickens etc.. given the same compounds? If so, one would presumably stand a good chance of finding a similar correlation with something like chicken.

I agree that it does seem like a lot of red meat.

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My first thought when I heard the report was "Oh no, not again with something that causes cancer", and when I heard what it was I said to myself, 'well they should quit injecting it with all sorts of crap and hormones".

I think, as it always does, it boils down to "moderation". If you eat fatty red meat four or five days a week, you've probably got bigger problems than a risk of cancer, you've probably got a weight problem, high cholesterol and heart disease too. So what else were these women eating? Were they eating plenty of fiber, lots of fresh veg? Or is it one lopsided "finding" that really doesn't mean anything to most normal people with a healthy diet?

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OK, for those red-meat lovers (myself included) out there...I took a quick look at the actual journal article, and it also noted that "Women with a higher intake of red meat were more likely to be current smokers, to have 3 or more children, and to have a higher body mass index and caloric intake but less likely to have a history of benign breast disease. " I don't see how one could conclusively say that eating red-meat is the only culprit. :blink:

I know that being overweight/obese can also increase a woman's risk of endometrial cancer (one's own fatty tissues actual create a weak estrogen).

The article did mention that cooked/processed red meat can be "a source of carciongens, such as heterocyclic amines, N-nitroso-compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, that increase mammary tumors in anmals and hve been hypothesized to increase breast cancer risk" and "heterocyclic amines are estrogenic". :unsure:

The authors did bring up the issue of growth hormone treated cattle as a potential issue, but unfortunately, the long-term effects of consuming such cattle...well, those effects haven't been studied . They say that the type of fat matters: vegetable fat was not related to increased risk of breast cancer, but that animal fat was.

My personal take on this is the same as Heidi's: moderation in everthing! Extreme diets of any sort are unlikely to be healthy. I love a great steak, but I don't eat red meat 1.5 x/day, or even 3x/week. Just my personal (and professional) 2cents.

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I live in the UK and as far as I know if I buy organic meat it will not have been fed any hormone growth promoters. Is there not an equivalent grade of meat available in the US?

It really upsets me that we so often turn to giving up eating certain foodstuffs rather than giving up some of the more dubious agricultural practices we currently employ to produce them.

I am really lucky because I live in an area where I can get very good quality beef. There are plenty of things I avoid but if I know a producer is doing a good job then I try to support them - I would rather buy a cheaper cut of meat from a good producer than a steak from a source I know nothing about.

Off my hobbyhorse now.

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Everyone is jumping on the "hormone" wagon with this one, but I would hesitate to lump BGH with estrogen and progesterone hormones. They could very well be quite different types. Also, If it is the hormones, wouldn't the correlation also apply to cheese and dairy eaters?

This will not change my eating habits one whit. I must die of something, and I am not going to spend the rest of my life worrying about what might kill me.

I love red meat (my grandfather was a cattleman), and we had free (and wonderful) beef all year long, but even I didn't eat that much red meat growing up, nor do I now. That's a lot of meat.

To respond to Mallet, who said:

I am curious to see if the link is caused by red meat per se or the hormones fed to cattle. Are "industrially" (for lack of a better word) produced broiler chickens etc.. given the same compounds? If so, one would presumably stand a good chance of finding a similar correlation with something like chicken.

Hormones are not allowed to be administered to chickens per FDA regulations.

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Everyone is jumping on the "hormone" wagon with this one, but I would hesitate to lump BGH with estrogen and progesterone hormones. They could very well be quite different types. Also, If it is the hormones, wouldn't the correlation also apply to cheese and dairy eaters?

This will not change my eating habits one whit. I must die of something, and I am not going to spend the rest of my life worrying about what might kill me.

I love red meat (my grandfather was a cattleman), and we had free (and wonderful) beef all year long, but even I didn't eat that much red meat growing up, nor do I now. That's a lot of meat.

To respond to Mallet, who said:

I am curious to see if the link is caused by red meat per se or the hormones fed to cattle. Are "industrially" (for lack of a better word) produced broiler chickens etc.. given the same compounds? If so, one would presumably stand a good chance of finding a similar correlation with something like chicken.

Hormones are not allowed to be administered to chickens per FDA regulations.

Well said.

there are so many variables that these "links" really need to be taken with a grain of salt.

(actually salt has been linked to....)

a number of posters have noted some of these variables--how about genes?

By the way--who is eating "more than one and a half portions of beef a day"?

Oddly we seem to be living a lot longer today with all the hormones and other "bad" stuff--how about all those chemicals in the air we breathe?!--- than we did prior to the industrial revolution.

We are also leading much better lives quality wise.

Key "links" to any increased incidence of cancer these days can be attributed to longevity and better detection.

(not to say we should not improve food production methods and clean up our environment--but how about a little perspective). :wink:

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I'll still eat beef, balancing it out with the mercury laden fish. :raz:

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I'll still eat beef, balancing it out with the mercury laden fish.  :raz:

Life is a crap shoot theory? Thanks for this, lala! :wink:

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So ... disclosures first. Medical doctor. Senior management (20 years' experience) with a large pharma company. Responsible for (among other things) scientific review and approval of all abstracts, posters, manuscripts relating to cardiovascular, metabolic, endocrine, neuro (both psychiatric and non-psyciatric) products. Real-world experience with statistics and extensive stats group to teach me when I don't know (which in stats is often :laugh: ). I also believe that the more we have to rely on fancy statistical analyses, the more likely we are to be mislead by some hidden confounding or misleading factor ... simple is good.

The comment that "association does not mean causality" is 100% correct, as is the observation that there are multiple other factors present that are also at this point associated with cancer. Still, we know that excess or exogenous hormones can produce tumors in humans (go look at the studies of hormone replacement therapy and the association [corrected for obesity, smoking, family history] of hormone levels in the medication and incidence of tumors, primarily in hormone-sensitive reproductive organs).

In the meantime, my mother (95) never ate beef more than once a month, but we had chicken weekly. My daughter (17) is a vegetarian (lacto-ovo), who now occasionally eats chicken and fish -- she spent two years with a very bad cook at school, whose idea of vegetarian was ... enough to convert her. So the women in my life have already reduced their beef intake dramatically.

I wish we had the option to choose "organic, no hormones"beef, but that isn't a choice for many Americans who shop in mega-chain grocery stores rather than butcher shops ... and in any case, we often raise corn-fed cattle, which implies they are treated with antibiotics (at the least) on an industrial scale.

As for me (male), I recently decided to drastically reduce my beef intake (and previously my intake was moderate and organic/no anitbiotics/no hormones) based on reading Michael Pollen's "The Omnivore's Dilemma". I have no religious, ethical, or moral qualms about killing animals or plants (they're alive too!) for food ... but I do have qualms about eating something that is designed to shorten my life and reduce my quality of life for years before I die. I am trying to gradually reduce the beef intake of my son (14), who is addicted to short ribs and BBQ in general, but who fortunately has never enjoyed fast-food hamburgers (he goes for the chicken -- not sure that's such a great improvement!!). My brother is doing the same, both for himself and for his wife and daughter.

Practically speaking, it may take decades until we have the studies and statistical power to sort out the contribution of all the various potential factors -- we simply have to make the decision based on what our gut tells us (no pun intended :shock: ) and wait to see if science confirms our decision (further disclaimer: discuss with your own physician or nutitionist ...).

Yes, we all have to die eventually and moderation is a good thing, but we should consider which risks we are willing to take and which ones aren't worth the pleasure. As for 1.5 servings of beef per day, remember that Americans often put away in one sitting several "servings" -- ever gone to Ruth Chris' or Lone Star and watched someone put away a 16-22 oz porterhouse? I think the standard nutritional "serving" for pork and beef is 3-4 ounces, so that's about 4-7 servings at one sitting ... or (averaged over a week), approximately 1 servings/day from one meal. Add a Big Mac or two (each quarter pounder is one serving), or one weekly serving of "Beef with Orange Sauce" (with left overs) and you're there ... 1.5 servings/week!!

That's why we're a nation dying of obesity and diabetes, not just heart disease and cancer ... :angry: ... we have the ability to control this if we want ...


Edited by JasonZ (log)

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Sorry to abbreviate your learned and thoughtful post, Doctor, but

That's why we're a nation dying of obesity and diabetes, not just heart disease and cancer ...  :angry: ... we have the ability to control this if we want ...

perhaps Therein lies the rub?

Maybe obesity, part and parcel of poor eating habits, exaggerates what might otherwise be statistically insignificant hazards.

Rather than confront the problem, studies are often undertaken by entities having a veiled pecuniary interest in either the subject matter or studies themselves, such as taxpayer funded bureaucracies and academics. They're thus both subjugated to political whim and obliged to play to the scientifically ignorant and sensation seeking mass media.

Indeed, "we can control this if we want", but "we" can be either a singular or collective noun.

SB (to eat, perchance to dream)

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correlation vs. causation.

most studies like this are pointless. or, at the very least, the media-generated stories that stem from them are. but, if this one convinces people eat better meats, with less hormones, i suppose it has a place. but from what i saw, the headlines read something like "meat causes cancer!"


Edited by tommy (log)

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What I find interesting is what is left out of the headlines.

Anyone actually reading the article linked will see that this study is far from conclusive.

Everything we do in life carries a risk/reward implication. This is not just about increasing our life expectancy, it is about enjoying life and the quality of life.

If we choose to live by statistics then I suggest we stop toying with diet and get serious. One should never get into an automobile or ski or go rock climbing.

The truth is, we take the things we enjoy and make them safer or we simply decide that the reward is greater than the risk. A decidedly personal decision.

I for one, believe that grain fed beef is far better in taste and texture to supposedly healthier grass fed organic beef. I chose to eat less but I will not forgo the pleasure I get from enjoying a great steak.

I also find most so called organic, free range chickens to be tough and tasteless--but that's me.

I refuse to live in fear and fear is what is used everyday to sell books and so called documentaries. We are supposed to believe that any large food company is part of a plot wherein government and big business conspire to kill us.

(add conspiracy theories to the mix is a sure fire way to get attention).

I remind everyone of Dr Paul Ehrlich and the population bomb scare of the sixties and seventies. He was dead wrong--his interpretation of statistics created fear and sold millions of books. The famines he predicted never happened mainly because the evil empire of agribusiness developed means to feed more people. The incidence of famine actually decreased!

It is good to have information about what we eat--information helps us to deal with that risk/reward thing. But listening to people who take statistics and use them to advance a cause or a theory should be listened to with more than a little skepticism.

In just the last few years we have been told by groups with serious sounding names and lots of "credentialed" members that various things we eat are literally killing us.

Yet life goes on. We are living almost twice as long as we did before the industrial revolution and that life, for most, is far far better. Food production is improving in efficiency safety and quality. maybe not as quickly has we would like but it is improving.

I simply can't panic every time my local newspaper screams that a new study "indicates" that such and such is killing me or I will get a horrible disease if I continue eating something.

I can't go to bed each night worried that McDonald's and Monsanto and the chicken or beef industries are conspiring to kill me.

I am skeptical of dire predictions of death and disease and claims of epidemics--I am still waiting for the bird flu to ravage our population!

I am going to eat a big juicy corn fed dry aged prime steak every once in a while with a bottle of good red wine and a baked potato with lots of real butter and I will end the evening with a cognac and a good cigar.

I may even have some foie gras as a starter!

Will I do this every night? No.

But it's my choice.

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Most of the food we eat is from local farms, meaning: free-range, pastured, grass-fed meats and poultry, and local, mostly organic fruits and vegetables. We seek out farmers who have selected heirloom breeds best suited for pasture and our climate here in MN. I also buy Copper River salmon in season, and vacuum-pack and freeze about 30 lbs for the year.

Real Food tastes better, and is richer... golden orange egg yolks, fresh & creamy raw milk, Highland beef with real flavor… the list goes on. And for those who think such meat is tough, know that pastured beef is best slowly - for long hours at a low temp, or quickly seared and left rare.

The only medical problem I had was essential hypertension - and this was while I was a vegetarian! On this wholesome Real Food omnivore diet, complete with bone broths made into various soups, I am happy to say I am now, at 60, OFF my hypertension drug. The food I eat is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, CLA (which is protective against breast cancer and cancer of the colon), vitamins, and a full range of natural amino acids, all from the grass-fed meats and bone-broths from them. I get plenty of phytonutrients and antioxidants from the organic vegetables.

The key, IMO, is to eat a diversified diet. Vegetables with various colors, a mixture of protein sources – shoot, I would also use a diversified assortment of lipids… including raw, cultured butter, really fresh EVOO, duck fat, and yes, even non-industrialized lard.

At best, we probably eat grass-fed beef, elk or lamb 2-3 times a week, and balance them with free-range chickens or duck, and wild seafood. BUT, all this said, I would not touch feed-lot beef or battery chickens with a ten-foot pole, in part, because of the hormones they are given. If anything, I am growing healthier on this clean, unadulterated diet!

Tonight we will be eating pan-seared, rare, grass-fed Highland beef tenderloins. I will serve my wild mushroom soup and vegetables with it. Wish you could join us for a taste-testing :raz:

And regarding breast cancer, From the Weston Price Foundation:

“Breast cancer was a rare disease in 1900. Today it occurs in epidemic proportions—by some estimates one in every eight women will contract breast cancer, many of them during their childbearing years. Peruse the scientific literature on breast cancer and you will find that the following nutrients are considered protective against this terrible disease: vitamin C, carotenes, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin CoQ10, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), sphingomyelin and butyric acid.31 Of these, only the first two (vitamin C and carotenes) are found in plant foods. The rest are provided exclusively from animal foods, particularly butter and fats from animals allowed to graze, but the vast majority of popular books on breast cancer promote a lowfat vegetarian diet for women with breast cancer!”

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just to add quickly...

vitamin A is found in many plant sources.

re C0Q10 (which is a coenzyme)...

i found numerous references to plant sources, including "rice bran, soya beans, nuts (hazel, pistachio), sesame seeds, vegetables (cabbage, spinach, potato, onion, carrot)." peanuts were also listed.

didn't go through all the prevantatives listed in the post, but just wanted to add the above.

cheers --

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Hear, hear Lynette. I bet they tested grain fed feedlot beef, not grassfed no-hormones added beef. Totally different animal.

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...I wish we had the option to choose "organic, no hormones"beef, but that isn't a choice for many Americans who shop in mega-chain grocery stores rather than butcher shops ... and in any case, we often raise corn-fed cattle, which implies they are treated with antibiotics (at the least) on an industrial scale.

Jason, in Philadelphia Whole Foods says their meat is without antibiotics or hormones. At the Reading Terminal, Ochs and Giunta make a similar claim. On weekends, the farm foods stand - practically across from Metropolitan bakery - carries some organic & grass fed meats.

But, you're right. Most Americans outside the urban coast areas have limited access.

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