Does eating meat and dairy increase breast cancer risk?

Past studies have indicated that a Western diet is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.  But is it really the diet?  What part of the diet?  Is it meat?  Dairy?  Vitamin D?  Fat?

Results from a  large European study were published this month indicating that eggs, meat, and dairy were not significantly associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.  This study, European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, has followed over 300,000 women, with about seven thousand developing breast cancer.   The researchers found no statistically significant relationships between consuming meat, eggs, or dairy products and the risk of developing breast cancer.  Read the study abstract here

My problem with this study, and many other large studies looking at breast cancer risk, is that all types of breast cancer are grouped together.  We know breast cancer is not one disease.  We know that there are several types, such as estrogen receptor positive, or the more aggressive triple-negative disease.  There must be different causes and different risk factors for the different types of breast cancer.  Perhaps eating dairy is only a risk in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer?  Or perhaps meat consumption is only relevant for premenopausal triple negative breast cancer?  Who knows?  Unfortunately, this large study won’t be able to give us those answers.

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