Findings published in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicate that higher consumption of grilled, barbecued, and smoked meat may increase the mortality risk among breast cancer survivors. In the study, entitled “Grilled, Barbecued, and Smoked Meat Intake and Survival Following Breast Cancer,” Humberto Parada, Jr., MPH, and colleagues evaluated the link between grilled/barbecued and smoked meats and the survival time after breast cancer.

High-temperature cooked meat intake is a highly prevalent source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other carcinogenic chemicals and has been associated with breast cancer incidence, but this study assessed whether intake is related to survival after breast cancer.

In a study population of 1508 Long Island women with breast cancer, subjects were interviewed and asked about their consumption of four types of grilled, barbecued, and smoked meat. The women were asked about their intake in each decade of life and were asked to specify the seasons in which the foods were most frequently consumed. At the five-year follow-up, participants responded to the same questions, which asked about the time period since the original questionnaire.

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Dr. Stegall’s Comments: It is always important to interpret studies correctly. In this example, we must define high intake versus low intake of grilled, smoked, and barbecued meats. What defines high intake, and is there room to eat these foods in moderation and not increase risk? (the answer is yes).

We must also consider correlation versus causation. We know that high intake of the aforementioned foods is correlated with an increased risk of death in those diagnosed with breast cancer. However, further research would be needed to show that high intake of these foods causes an increased mortality rate. Nonetheless, studies such as this are very helpful to guide us. We know that nutrition matters when dealing with cancer, and anyone who tells you it doesn’t is not practicing evidence-based medicine.