Meat and the Link to Cancer

Have any cancers been associated with the grilled meat carcinogens, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)?

 colon cancer Colorectal Cancer Risk: The ingestion of HCAs and PAHs has also been linked to colorectal cancer. According to Wang et al., (2012):

diets high in red meat well-done on the inside or outside may increase colorectal cancer, presumably through the formation of HCAs. Furthermore, our results indicate that diets high in poultry cooked at high temperatures might also be detrimental for colorectal cancer risk, perhaps through the formation of PAHs or HCAs (p. 1906).

 kidney cancer Kidney Cancer Risk: Other cancers associated with the ingestion of HCAs and PAHs include kidney cancer. According to Daniel et al., (2012) “red meat intake may increase the risk of Renal Cell Carcinoma through mechanisms related to the cooking compounds BaP and PhIP” (p. 155).
 pancreatic cancer Pancreatic Cancer Risk: According to Anderson, et al., (2012), consuming HCAs and BaP or PAHs have been associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer and “consuming well-done meat cooked at high temperatures which contains high mutagen levels, appears to confer increased risk of pancreatic cancer” (p. 128).
 prostate cancern  


Prostate Cancer Risk: increased red meat consumption has been associated with aggressive prostate cancer. According to Punnen, Hardin, Cheng, Klein, and Witte, (2011) their findings indicate that “this result appeared primarily driven by red meat that was grilled or barbequed-especially when cooked well-done. Furthermore, eating more meat mutagens MelQX and DiMelQx, which are produced by cooking over high heat, was associated with disease” (p. 4).


 Breast cancer  

Breast Cancer Risk: According to Zheng et al., (1998) based upon data from the Iowa’s women’s health study, those women who consumed meat well done had an almost 5x (4.62) greater risk of breast cancer versus those who consumed rare or medium rare (p.1724). Zheng et al., (1998) further go on to state that “these findings suggest that heterocyclic amines and possible other compounds, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, formed during high temperature cooking of animal foods may be related to the risk of breast cancer” (p. 1726-1727). Research conducted by Steck, et al., (2007) found that the consumption of PAHs and HCAs in cooked meats “support the accumulating evidence that consumption of meats cooked by methods that promote carcinogen formation may increase risk of postmenopausal breast cancer” (p. 373). As discussed PhIP, a HCA, is considered a potent mammalian cell mutagen, however researchers have found that PhIP may also be a cancer promoter as well. Research conducted by Lauber, Ali, and Gooderham, (2004), found that PhIP may also be a potent estrogen which may promote cancer progression due to PhIP’s ability to “induce cellular response that encompass altered gene expression and mitogenesis. We suggest that the combination of genetic toxicology and oestrogen-like promotion of genomic and cellular events provides a mechanism for the tissue-specific tumorigenicity of this compound” (p. 2509). While DeBruin, Marrtos, and Josephy, (2001) found PhIP in human breast milk of lactating mothers “detection of PhIP in milk indicates that ductal mammary epithelial cells are directly exposed to this carcinogen, implying that heterocyclic amines are possible human mammary carcinogens” (p. 1526-1527).


 lung cancer  

Lung Cancer Risk: Lung cancer has long been associated with cigarette smoking and while no one should smoke to decrease the risk of developing lung cancer evidence suggests that cooking foods within the home or on the grill may also affect the risk of developing lung cancer. According to Thiebaud, Knize, Kuzmicky, Hsieh, and Felton, (1995) their research found that “the fumes generated by frying pork and beef were mutagenic” while “no mutagenicity was detected in fumes from frying tempeh burgers” (p. 821). This lends credence to Sinha, (2002), whose research found that “Red meat, especially fried and/or well-done red meat, was associated with increased risk of lung cancer in a population-based case-control study” (p. 197).  And another study conducted by De Stefani, et al. (2010), found that “adenocarcinoma of the lung was positively associated with fried, barbecued, and salted meat intakes, with similar increases in risk for each case, but boiled meat was not associated with risk of lung cancer” (p. 1716). According to Thiebaud, Knize, Kuzmicky, Hsieh & Felton, (1995) the continued research into this field may explain the observational field study data researchers have collected “showing an increased risk of respiratory tract cancer among cooks and bakers” and “the lower proportion of deaths from respiratory diseases and lung cancer among vegetarians than in the general population” (p. 826).


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