Can Eating Burnt Meat Cause Cancer?

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If you're planning to grill this summer, beware of burning your meat. The American Cancer Society reports that cooking meat at high temperatures can create chemicals that may increase your cancer risk.

A study from the University of Minnesota linked the regular consumption of charred, well-done meat with a 60 percent increase in risk of pancreatic cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, high temperature cooking of meat creates the chemicals heterocylic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals cause changes in DNA that increase the risk of cancer. Animal studies have also demonstrated this link.

HCAs are created when amino acids and other substances in meat are burned. PAHs are formed when the meat's fat and juices drip onto the fire and cause flames, and the PAHs in these flames get on the meat. PAHs are also found in other charred foods, cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes.

To grill safely this summer, the American Cancer Society suggests these four tips for backyard barbecues.

  1. Choose lean cuts of meat to reduce fat drippings that cause smoke and potential carcinogens.
  2. Line your grill with foil and poke small holes in it. This allows the fat to drip off but keeps the smoke away from the meat.
  3. Remove charred parts of meat. Anything black or burnt will have lots of HCAs.
  4. Try grilling fruits and vegetables.
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