Consumption of Grilled Meats May Impact Mortality After Breast Cancer Survival

High consumption of grilled, barbequed, or smoked meats may increase morality risk in breast cancer survivors.

Findings from a new study show that breast cancer survivors who consume a large amount of grilled, barbequed, or smoked meats may have an increased mortality risk.

There are an estimated 252,710 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the United States each year, with 40,000 women succumbing to the disease. Fortunately, these statistics have been decreasing due to increased efforts regarding early detection, and more effective treatment options.

Advancements in breast cancer research have led to more targeted and effective treatments, including immunotherapy options that may reduce the amount of side effects experienced.

Despite more patients surviving a breast cancer diagnosis, a study published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute now finds that these survivors may increase their risk of all-cause mortality from consuming high amounts of grilled, barbequed, or smoked meats.

Other studies have linked consumption of meats prepared by high-temperature methods, such as grilling or pan frying, to an increased risk of breast and other cancers. This may be because these cooking methods lead to the creation of chemicals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines, that trigger DNA changes that may lead to cancer.

There were no previous studies that explored the relationship between mortality risks associated with the consumption of meats in patients who survived breast cancer.

In the new study, the researchers interviewed 1509 women who received a breast cancer diagnosis in 1996 or 1997. Patients were initially asked to recall their intake of grilled, barbequed, and smoked meats in each decade of life. These patients were then followed-up with after 5 years about their intake of these meats during that period of time.

Over the 17.6-year median follow-up period, 597 of the women died, with 39.5% dying as a result of breast cancer, according to the study.

Overall, patients who reported high consumption of grilled, barbequed, or smoked meats before breast cancer diagnosis had a 23% greater risk of all-cause mortality, compared with those who reported a low intake.

The investigators discovered that patients who reported high consumption of smoked beef, pork, or lamb had a 17% increased risk of all-cause mortality, and a 23% increased risk of breast cancer-related mortality, compared with patients who reported low consumption, according to the study.

Patients who consumed high amounts of such meats prior to, or after diagnosis, had a 31% increased risk of all-cause mortality, compared with patients who reported low consumption.

However, the researchers found that consumption of grilled, barbequed, and smoked meat over a lifetime did not impact mortality, nor did yearly intake of grilled and barbequed beef, lamb, pork, poultry, and fish before diagnosis, according to the study.

"High intake of grilled/barbecued and smoked meat may increase mortality after breast cancer,” the study concluded.