Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cancer precursors: red meats and grilling induces carcinogens

This year, as Americans get ready to fire up millions of backyard grills, there's a new scientific wrinkle: according to an exhaustive analysis of international research on diet and cancer, it's time to start looking for an alternative to the hot dog.

Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) are marking the onset of barbecue season by issuing their yearly advice on ways to lower potential cancer risks associated with grilling. This year, new information has come to light on the precise nature of those risks, and AICR's advice reflects this development with a shift in emphasis.

According to AICR, what you grill is the most important issue. US consumption of hot dogs and hamburgers soars during barbecue season, and a recently published landmark AICR report on diet and cancer prevention concluded that diets high in red meat (beef, pork and lamb) and especially processed meats (such as hot dogs) are now a convincing cause of colorectal cancer.

Compared to such clear and compelling risks, the risks associated with the grilling process itself should be of secondary concern. It is clear that grilling animal products (both red and white meat) causes potent carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to arise within food.

These substances have been shown in laboratory experiments to trigger the cancer process. The AICR report concluded that there is limited, but suggestive evidence, that these substances factor in human cancer, providing one more reason to limit consumption of red and processed meat, however it is cooked.

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