Angelina Jolie’s doctor, Dr Kristi Funk has commented on the relationship between meat consumption and breast cancer. Funk noted that the increased consumption of meat that is filled with growth hormones could be leading to rising numbers of breast cancer cases. Jolie is one of several Hollywood stars to take on Funk’s advice about a vegan diet for cancer prevention, with Ellen Pompeo and Sheryl Crow also taking heed.

Jolie underwent a double mastectomy in 2013 after being told by doctors she had an 87 per cent risk of breast cancer and a 50 per cent risk of ovarian cancer. Dr Kristi Funk spoke out at the time about Jolie’s decision, hoping that her decision would raise awareness around the world.

Some cancer organisations do not recognise the link between certain types of cancer and diet, as results are sometimes ‘inconclusive and inconsistent.’ However, red meat and processed meat is classed as a group one carcinogen to humans – meaning that “there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer,” according to the World Health Organisation.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Funk said: “If you had asked me this question a little over a year ago I would have ranked everything the same, but put diet somewhere around fourth. Even after 17 years of being a laser-focus breast cancer surgeon, I had no idea. But when I delved into the literature regarding food, I was literally shocked. It is crystal clear that the body’s cellular response to animal protein and fat is nothing but dangerous.”

Dietary choices

Funk spoke about the known carcinogens in the processed meat category, such as bacon, ham and sausages, and why more patients don’t know the risks of their dietary choices. She added: “Oh, doctors don’t tell them because they don’t know. They eat cake and ice cream, they had a turkey sandwich for lunch. I didn’t have a nutrition class in medical school.”

In her new book, Breasts, An Owner’s Manual, Funk talks passionately about diet. In her interview with The Sunday Times, Funk said: “The everything-in-moderation mantra rubs me up the wrong way… Why consume cancer-causing meats in moderation?  So that maybe I can remove a moderate part of your breast?”

However, studies on vegans and breast cancer risk are unclear due to the numbers of vegans in the West being too low. Having said this, it is pointed out that countries with a low breast cancer rate are also countries who typically consume low amounts of dairy and meat. One study that looked at the relationship of a vegan diet and breast cancer was the Adventist Health Study. It was concluded that vegans presented a 44 per cent drop in breast cancer rates, when compared to meat eaters.

Funk added that she is confident that further studies will provide solid evidence for this link, with research being carried out on the effects of animal fat and protein.

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