You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating, especially after a new long-term study confirmed that eating charred, well-done meat on a regular basis increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 60 percent.
Previous studies have shown that cooking meats at very high temperatures creates heterocyclic amines, or HAs -- chemicals that might increase cancer risk. HAs are created by the burning of amino acids and other substances in meats cooked at particularly high temperatures and that are particularly well-done. HAs have also been present in grilled, barbecued, broiled and pan-fried meat.
University of Minnesota researchers followed the eating habits of more than 62,000 people for nine years. They recorded their meat intake, preferred cooking methods, and doneness preferences. The researchers found that people who preferred well-done meat, including bacon, sausage, hamburger, and steak, had an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Over the nine year study period the researchers identified 208 cases of pancreatic cancer.
The research was presented by Kristin Anderson, PhD, associate professor and cancer epidemiologist with the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health and Masonic Cancer Center, at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) meeting this spring.
Anderson said 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. Those with the highest intake of very well-done meat had a 70 percent higher risk for pancreatic cancer over those with the lowest consumption.
Tips for limiting exposure to HAs:
· Turn down the heat when grilling, frying, and barbecuing to avoid excess charring. Cook meat at a temperature sufficient to kill bacteria without burning. Cut off burned portions. They have the highest concentration of HAs.
· Choose lean cuts of meat and trim away excess fat. Fat dripping onto hot coals causes smoke that contains potential carcinogens.
· Line the grill with foil and poke small holes in it so the fat can still drip off, but the amount of smoke coming back onto the meat is lower.
· Add vegetables and fruit to the grill Many of the chemicals that are created when meat is grilled are not formed during the grilling of vegetables or fruits, so you can still enjoy grilled flavor.
· You can also reduce your ingestion of HAs by microwaving the meat for a few minutes and then pouring off the juices before cooking it on the grill.