What’s in that big juicy steak anyway?

You are what you eat.

It’s an old saying without a scientific footnote, but I believe in the logic: You eat something, you digest it, your body derives energy from it, maybe stores some of it as fat, and expels what it doesn’t need. Right? Our bodies are in a constant state of rebuilding, and the building blocks come from what we eat, drink, breathe.

We all know how some foods affect us brilliantly (oatmeal for breakfast, for example) and how some foods leave us feeling like — well, I’ll spare you the expletive — they leave us feeling like a big turd (that fourth chocolate martini, for instance).

With all this in mind, I found this statement alarming:

“The incidence of breast cancer in the 1920s was maybe 1 in 12. Today, it’s 1 in 7. One thing contributing to that increase is all the hormones in our food.”

I heard this earlier this week when I accompanied a friend on a visit to her oncologist regarding her breast cancer diagnosis. So this doctor who treats cancer for a living attributes at least some of the increase incidence of breast cancer to hormones in our food.

A lot of other things have happened in the past century that might explain the increasing risk of breast cancer — the end of prohibition, longer life spans, women in the workforce, long commutes, delayed childbearing, better health care, the Pill and more — and I didn’t discuss any of these things with the oncologist (we had more pressing matters to discuss, like my friend’s treatment, if you must know). But if we are what we eat, I certainly can believe our food supply — which depends on all kinds of modern substances and practices to be manufactured, shipped, preserved and prepared — could be affecting our health.

A quick Google search finds lots of conflicting accounts from “nope, no connection” to “for all that is good and holy, step away from that hamburger at once and put your hands in the where I can see them.” The Susan G. Komen website lists the following under “factors under study”: “some researchers have suggested the high fat content of many dairy products or traces of pesticides or growth hormones in milk may increase risk …; more research is needed to confirm these finding” and “results from two pooled analyses have found no link between meat intake and breast cancer risk.” (Click here for that footnoted page.)

Would I rather starve or die of breast cancer? I’m far too much of a glutton addicted to short-term satisfaction to trade dining at the table of abundance for nibbling on a carrot stick so I’m definitely siding with breast cancer on that one.

But on the other hand (or breast), it couldn’t hurt to choose organic, no-hormones-added dairy products and meats when they’re available, right?

Right.

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