Study shows charred meat increases cancer risk

Consumer Reports News: April 22, 2009 03:43 PM

People who regularly eat burned or charred red meat, have a 60 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer, according data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting 2009. University of Minnesota researchers said well done and very well done meats cooked by frying, grilling, or barbecuing can form carcinogens which do not form when meat is baked or stewed. "We found that those who preferred very well-done steak were almost 60 percent more likely to get pancreatic cancer as those who ate steak less well-done or did not eat steak," Kristen Anderson of the University of Minnesota, who led the study, said of the results taken from over a nine-year period.

We’ve previously reported that burning or charring meats can transform amino acids and other natural substances in foods into carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. We recommend limiting your exposure to charred meats by:

  • Cooking at a temperature below 325º F, the surface temperature at which HCAs begin to form, 
  • Marinating food before grilling, which research shows can greatly reduce HCA formation, and
  • Not cooking food directly over the flame, because fat or marinade dripping on briquettes or gas flames can create flare-ups that contribute to HCAs and form other potential carcinogens.

Ginger Skinner

Read more on how to limit your exposure to cancer-causing HCAs, and find out if you’re at-risk for pancreatic cancer.

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