Adolescent meat intake and breast cancer risk

Int J Cancer. 2015 Apr 15;136(8):1909-20. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29218. Epub 2014 Oct 3.


The breast is particularly vulnerable to carcinogenic influences during adolescence due to rapid proliferation of mammary cells and lack of terminal differentiation. We investigated consumption of adolescent red meat and other protein sources in relation to breast cancer risk in the Nurses' Health Study II cohort. We followed prospectively 44,231 women aged 33-52 years who, in 1998, completed a detailed questionnaire about diet during adolescence. Relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (95%CI) were estimated using Cox proportional hazard regression. We documented 1132 breast cancer cases during 13-year follow-up. In multivariable Cox regression models with major breast cancer risk factors adjustment, greater consumption of total red meat in adolescence was significantly associated with higher premenopausal breast cancer risk (highest vs. lowest quintiles, RR, 1.43; 95%CI, 1.05-1.94; Ptrend = 0.007), but not postmenopausal breast cancer. Adolescent intake of poultry was associated with lower risk of breast cancer overall (RR, 0.76; 95%CI, 0.60-0.97; for each serving/day). Adolescent intakes of iron, heme iron, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts were not associated with breast cancer. Replacement of one serving/day of total red meat with one serving of combination of poultry, fish, legumes, and nuts was associated with a 15% lower risk of breast cancer overall (RR, 0.85; 95%CI, 0.74-0.96) and a 23% lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer (RR, 0.77; 95%CI, 0.64-0.92). In conclusion, higher consumption of red meat during adolescence was associated with premenopausal breast cancer. Substituting other dietary protein sources for red meat in adolescent diet may decrease premenopausal breast cancer risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects
  • Eating / physiology
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Premenopause / physiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Proteins