Well Cooked Meat Can Raise Cancer Risk By Up T0 500%

August 23, 2010

As we are probably in the last few weeks of the barbecue season I hope this warning doesn’t come too late. If your answer to the question ‘how do you like your steak?’ is to say ‘extremely well done’ then for your health’s sake you might want to turn down the heat a little. The link between charring meat by frying, barbecuing or otherwise heavily cooking it and cancer has been made before but a new study from the University of Texas has just confirmed it.

Researchers there have found that people who eat well-done meat double their risk of developing bladder cancer when compared to people who eat meat on the rarer end of the spectrum. The reason? This type of cooking can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals in the meat, due primarily to the heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when meat is cooked at very high heat.

There are three different HCA chemicals formed during high-heat cooking that, collectively, raise your cancer risk by more than 250 percent. And that astonishing figure is just for the average person; if you are already genetically predisposed to developing cancer then the risk is nearly doubled to almost 500 percent.

As I said, the link between cancer and very well cooked meat has already been made and the U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified a total of 17 different HCAs. Prior research has already established that these chemicals, which are produced when meat is charred, increase pancreatic cancer risk but now it appears that they contribute to bladder cancer as well.

The good news is that the study team made very clear in its report that meat itself is not necessarily the culprit in increasing cancer risk, but rather the intense cooking methods by which it is prepared. If you are patting yourself on the back because you don’t eat red meat I regret to inform you that chicken, pork and even fish cooked heavily may also form cancer-causing HCAs. This is a blow to me as one of my favourite meals is to marinade and then dry fry salmon steaks in a redhot nonstick pan until the surface is crispy — ah well, another favourite food hits ‘the occasional treats’ list!

So if you are addicted to the barbecue or grill then the best advice is to keep meat away from direct flames as this will help to reduce the development of HCAs and lower the risk of developing cancer.


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