Questionnaires were answered by 976 black women with cancer and 1,165 without cancer, and 873 white women with cancer and 865 without.
The responses suggested that white women who ate the most unprocessed meat were most at risk of developing breast cancer – particularly those who had not reached the menopause. That risk rose with each increase in weekly consumption of 18oz or more of red meat and 7oz or more of poultry.
Until now breast cancer studies have been carried out only on white women, according to one of the study’s senior authors, Dr Elisa Bandera, an epidemiologist at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
“Our study provides new information on the role consumption of animal foods play on breast cancer development in women of European and African ancestry,” said Dr Bandera.
“This research supports encouraging [white] women to limit their intake of both red meat and poultry in order to reduce their risk of breast cancer, which is in line with the American Institute for Cancer Research’s recommendation of limiting red meat intake to less than 500g per week,” said the study lead author Urmila Chandran.
The preliminary findings were presented last week at the American Institute for Cancer Research meeting in Washington DC.
Elsewhere, a report published in Nutrition Journal has shown a link between meat-heavy diets and asthma and hayfever.
The study, which looked at more than 150,000 older Australian men and women, showed that the chance of developing the two conditions increased by 10-25 per cent according to the amount of meat consumed.