The Thing about Bacon and Other Cutting-Edge Research on Breast Cancer
The Thing about Bacon and Other
Cutting-Edge Research on Breast Cancer
Every month, we get into a different health topic and explore the research. This month, we’re looking at some of the most interesting new studies on breast cancer and highlighting the important takeaways.
International Journal of Cancer (2018)
A meta-analysis of fifteen studies found that women who ate more processed meat (like sausages, bacon, and salami) had a 9 percent increased risk of breast cancer. The analysis also found that higher red meat consumption was associated with a 6 percent increased risk of breast cancer, although this was not statistically significant. This study comes a few years after the 2015 announcement from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans, while red meat is classified as probably carcinogenic. There is limited human evidence for the second point, and we don’t know for sure why processed or red meat would be associated with cancer. The suspected culprits are chemicals that form during meat processing (such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and the chemicals that can be produced from cooking meat (such as heterocyclic aromatic amines). The small increases in cancer risk that are associated with meat consumption aren’t necessarily a reason to quit eating meat (talk to your doctor if you are considering it; there are pros to eating some meat). But with global meat consumption on the rise, a lot of us could cut down on daily intake and see benefits for our health and the planet.
Cancer Research (2019)
Most cases of breast cancer are hormone receptor-positive (HR+), which is an aggressive form of breast cancer that is fueled by hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, as well as other factors in the tumor environment that have previously been unknown. To find out what those other factors are, researchers at the University of Virginia significantly altered the microbiome of mice by giving them huge doses of antibiotics for fourteen days (way more than would be equivalent to any human dose). Then they injected breast tumors into these mice and another group of mice that had healthy guts and hadn’t been fed antibiotics. After a few days, the cancer had spread in the dysregulated mice not just within the breast area but all over their body due to widespread inflammation from gut dysbiosis. This was not the case for the control group. The study highlights the importance of gut health and suggests that it might be especially important for women with breast cancer. In the future, it’s possible that researchers will look at probiotics as a potential option for reducing the spread of breast cancer.
International Journal of Cancer (2018)
Studies have shown an association between people with low vitamin D levels and incidence of osteoporosis and various chronic diseases, such as diabetes and some cancers. Results have historically been mixed regarding vitamin D status and breast cancer, with some studies showing an association and others not. Last year, researchers in South Korea released a meta-analysis comprising all existing studies on breast cancer mortality and vitamin D status. They found that breast cancer patients who had higher blood vitamin D levels had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer death or death from any cause compared to breast cancer patients who had low vitamin D levels. The study emphasizes the importance of nutrition and getting enough vitamin D. Many people may be low in vitamin D from inadequate dietary intake (a cup of milk has only 30 percent of your daily value) or lack of sun exposure.
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health (2018)
Getting outdoors and into nature is good for you for a number of reasons. Could it decrease your risk of breast cancer? Researchers studied 2,747 women living in Spain and found that those who lived closer to urban green areas, such as parks, had a lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who lived farther away. But when they looked at proximity to agricultural land, they found that women who lived nearer to farms, for example, had a higher risk of breast cancer. And it wasn’t necessarily due to differing levels of physical activity or air pollution. The researchers aren’t sure exactly what caused the difference. Their hypothesis is that exposure to pesticides near agricultural lands may be the issue or perhaps individuals who live in urban areas are protected because they have less psychological stress and better mental health.