You asked, we answered: Does processed meat cause breast cancer?

Published January 27, 2021

Published

You asked, we answered: breast cancer risk and processed meat

Question

Will eating processed meat increase my risk for breast cancer?

Answered by Jennifer Griffin, MD

The World Health Organization defines processed meat as meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. Studies about the relationship between processed meat and cancer have had varied results. One meta-analysis – a study that combines the results of multiple studies – found a small increase (9%) in breast cancer risk related to higher consumption of processed meat. 

It is important to note that other lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, maintaining a normal weight and limiting alcohol use have a larger known impact on cancer risk and should be the primary focus of individuals working to decrease their cancer risk.