Can Eating Red Meat Increase Your Breast Cancer Risk? You Might Want to Put Down That Big Mac

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If you're a huge fan of ribeye steaks, Five Guys burgers, and roast beef sandwiches, bad news: there's more research coming down the pipeline that says that red meat is bad for your health. We all know the old saw "too much of a good thing," but lately that's been especially applicable to red meat, which is now one of the most controversial food groups. According to Maryam Farvid and her team at the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Nutrition, beef and other types of red meat can significantly increase your chance of breast cancer.

Here's the lowdown on the study's important numbers: nearly 89,000 women were studied for 20 years, and of that group, 2830 women developed breast cancer. Participants had to fill out a very detailed dietary survey in 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007, and also had to provide information on height, weight, family medical history, and other details. Those who ate the most red meat had a 25 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer (though no word on what other lifestyle choices they might have been making that could have informed this). On the other hand, those who replaced a daily serving of red meat with fish or legumes were 14 percent less likely to develop cancer. When looking at numbers like that, it's hard to deny that eating an excess of red meat can be seriously harmful to your health. And, Farvid's article in the British Medical Journal goes on, red meat consumption in early adulthood can be especially problematic. Furthermore, red meat is also linked to bowel cancer.

Replacing red meat with servings of legumes, such as the lentil stew pictured above, is a delicious way to stay healthy.

But how much red meat is too much? Since I didn't know the answer for sure, I turned to the American Heart Association for some recommendations. According to its website, people should limit lean meat, chicken, and fish to less than 6 oz. per day, or two portions. A portion is roughly the size of a deck of cards, so double it to get an estimate. I want to add, though, that everyone is different. Finding a tasty and healthy diet is like finding your personal style: the romper that totally worked for that girl in your Politics class may not work for you.

Luckily for us, there have been plenty of studies dedicated to finding potential breast cancer risks or preventatives. For example, heavy teen drinking may cause a 34 percent increase in developing breast cancer. If you're reading this and you're under 20, it may be wise to lay off the bottle as well as the burgers. In addition, walking at least an hour a day, as well as engaging in other forms of exercise, can decrease your chance of developing breast cancer.

So while this news is potentially frightening, it's not that difficult to make a few lifestyle changes that could save you a lot of grief down the road. If you're interested in decreasing your red meat intake, try out some of these vegan recipes.