Everyone enjoys barbecued meat and summer barbecues are an American tradition. However, cooking meats on your grill can cause an increased risk for cancer. A number of studies have indicated the ingestion of meats with “charring” from the grill may contribute to development of cancers such as leukemia, gastrointestinal cancers, lung cancer, breast cancer and other cancers.
Does Grilling Increase Cancer Risk?
The problem appears to be the high temperatures involved in the grilling of proteins. These proteins will normally react to produce certain types of compounds. These compounds have been linked to cancer in some animal studies and may have a correlation to humans with as much as a 60 percent increase in incidence of cancer.
Carcinogens Caused by Grilling
Research studies have shown that grilled meats form compounds that are associated with higher rates of cancer. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemical compounds that are formed when muscle meats such as beef, pork, poultry or fish are cooked at high temperatures. Polycyclic aromatic compounds can be caused by fat dripping and burning on the hot coals. Pan frying or grilling normally cooks meat above 300 degree Fahrenheit, which is considered a danger point that favors the creation of these compounds.
One study in 2005 by M. Jagerstad and K. Skog found the meats cooked at high temperatures can have genotoxic effects and DNA abnormalities that are associated with cancer. Another study in 2004 by Sugimura, Wakabayashi, Nakagama, and Nagao had similar results. Though these results only show an association with cancer, further study is needed to address the likelihood of carcinogenic risk in humans. However, efforts to minimize exposure to these compounds seem to be a wise course to take until the questions are fully answered.
What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk
The National Cancer Institute recommends a number of steps to help reduce your exposure to these carcinogenic compounds created by charred meats.
· Avoid cooking meats at high temperatures for long periods of time. This type of cooking increases the formation of carcinogenic compounds.
· Use a microwave oven to quickly cook meats before exposing them to high temperatures
· Use very lean cuts free of fat and remove skin from chicken to avoid the dripping of fat onto hot surfaces.
· Turn the meat continuously while it is cooking at high temperature to reduce the formations of these compounds
· Remove the visibly charred portions of the meat to prevent ingestion of the hazardous compounds.
· Add colorful fruits and vegetables to your grilled meals to provide additional cancer-fighting antioxidants.
To keep grilled meats from forming compounds that are associated with higher cancer risk, follow these recommendations to keep your summer barbecues healthy and enjoyable.