Q. Does Grilling Cause Cancer?

By Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., May/June 2009

Does Grilling Cause Cancer?

A. There’s no evidence that grilling causes cancer. But cooking meat at the high temperatures you use to grill—as well as broil and fry—creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds linked with some cancers.

Animal and laboratory studies suggest that HCAs may damage DNA and spur the development of tumors in cells of the colon, breast, prostate and lymph system. At temperatures of 350°F and hotter, amino acids and creatine (a natural compound that helps supply energy to muscles and nerves) react to form HCAs. PAHs form when fat drips onto hot coals, creating smoke that settles on food; these compounds have been associated with increased risk of breast cancer.

But "within the big picture of cancer prevention, there are much greater risks than grilling," says Colleen Doyle, M.S., R.D., director of Nutrition and Physical Activity for the American Cancer Society. For example, "if you’re 30 pounds overweight, that puts you at much greater risk for developing a number of cancers [than does eating grilled meats]."

When you do grill, there are several things you can do to reduce HCAs and PAHs.

  • Grill fish. "Beef, pork and poultry tend to form more HCAs than seafood because of their higher amino acid content and longer grilling times," says Doyle.
  • Prefer meat or poultry? Trim fat to reduce drips.
  • Flavor meats with marinades and rubs. Research in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that marinating red meat in beer or wine for two hours significantly reduced HCAs. Scientists believe the antioxidants in these marinades block HCAs from forming. Similarly, a Kansas State University study found that rubbing rosemary, an herb known for its high level of antioxidants, onto meats before grilling cut HCA levels by up to 100 percent. Herbs including basil, mint, sage and oregano may have similar effects.
  • Pair grilled meats with vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones. In one study, men who ate about 2½ cups of Brussels sprouts every day for three weeks reduced their DNA damage significantly. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, contain sulforaphane, a compound that may help the body clear DNA-damaging compounds more quickly.

Bottom Line: Keep your grill. While some studies suggest that grilling produces compounds linked with cancer, the risks associated with eating grilled meats are relatively small when you look at the big picture.


Good thing our ancestors didn't cook over an open flame or none of us would be here!! Oh, wait. They did. And we are. Yep, it's a fact. They also ate food in its natural state. What they didn't eat was a lot of sugar and nothing that was "processed". Just eat a rainbow and don't eat a lifestyle of avoidance or indulgence. Enjoy your food, but be the boss of it. Stay as active as possible.
I eat healthy but have a neuromuscular condition going on 23 years. I am not on any medication for it and cannot exercise. I am 5'3" and weigh 120 and female. Looking at me, you would not even guess I do not exercise or have what could be MS. I use an electric smoker which cooks like an oven and I use some wood for a little flavor when I want. I passed the mid-century point many years ago and most likely genetics or the environment or the freeway will get me in the end.
My meat lived a great life and had one bad day. My eggs are from chickens that run around eating bugs and organic food. My veggies and fruit are non-GMO and mostly organic. So are my cooking oils and seasonings. I don't eat many sweets because my system no longer craves it. I don't eat gluten because of Celiac, but enjoy bread made without it.
My brain is happy because my mouth is happy! People will tell you eating organic is expensive. I say it's so much cheaper than prescriptions!
My point is; "I'm the Boss of my food". Attitude has everything to do with how you live your life and what you do to or for your body and brain. Eat, drink, and be happy!


04/24/2016 - 2:16pm

New study links eating and drinking to cancer...............


11/11/2015 - 7:48pm

Do the right thing and dont be over weight and choose good quality meat and less fatty. plus drink one less beer or wine use it as marinate. or use rosemarry or herbs. And learn the method of grill.


08/28/2015 - 6:25pm

I am sorry folks but when it comes down to it , it is genetic. Yes smoking and other issues will shorten your life but lets face it allot of folks have become so parinoid about what they do or eat that the stress is what is killing them. Some of my aunts and uncles cooked with lard. They lived well into their late 80s or evn 90s. There are other factors that we just do not know that is causing the increase in some types of cancer as well as yes....autisim. I know a fellow who ran every morning. Did not smoke, drink, eat burgers etc. Found dead in bed at age 49.

My advice is to stay busy......stay what you want but when you see a change in your health react to what "you know" might be causing it. Lets look at sugar.....taste good to much and get fat and unhealthy right. Well just stop then or cut back. As you age a little extra weight will not kill you.
I am saying what you were at 30 do not double that but a few pounds extra you may need if you get really ill. Some of these fanatics think they look and feel great.....most of them look anemic and ill.Yuck!!!

Be careful, stay active and enjoy!


07/12/2015 - 12:27am

Straight from ......
Studies have shown that exposure to HCAs and PAHs can cause cancer in animal models (6). In many experiments, rodents fed a diet supplemented with HCAs developed tumors of the breast, colon, liver, skin, lung, prostate, and other organs (7–12). Rodents fed PAHs also developed cancers, including leukemia and tumors of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs (13). However, the doses of HCAs and PAHs used in these studies were very high—equivalent to thousands of times the doses that a person would consume in a normal diet.

So don't eat 10 smoked/grilled servings of food a day everyday .
Some health nuts worry about everything forgetting worry and anxiety will shorten your life more than many things. There is a funny saying about a health nut lying on their death bed dying of nothing .


06/22/2015 - 8:35am

I just got a barbecue from TA appliances ,and when I open the instructions book it's say this metal contain products that can cause cancer and barbecue can cause cancer and the chemicals from gas burners can cause cancer !!!
Now why are these barbecues ect,are for sale?
If someone knows what cause people to be sick why they don't just stop sale it ?
That's make me sick just to reading staff like this ,cigarets kill people but still available for you to buy?
Please be real no one wants to be sick , if you know what is causing diseases like cancer please don't put out for sale ,,
It's all about money ,no body cares what making people sick ,shame ,,


03/07/2015 - 10:26pm

When fat reacts with glowing charcoal the substrate and the catalyst produce a huge amount of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs, which evaporate (white smoke) and deposited on grilled meat. One sausage (100g) cooked in this way is as carcinogenic as 2000 cigarettes. This grill smoke is seven times more toxic than the smoke from the chimney of waste incinerator.


10/06/2014 - 4:35am

People who have cancer, adults and children, should be given an extensive questionnaire that may help prevent more cancer. Adults may be given the child's questionnaire to answer for the child. The answers to the questionnaires would be filed into a huge database to help compile data and statistics from the answers. The compiled data would be available on the internet for people to see. A computer could be programmed to compile statistics from the data. The questionnaire data statistics may help show possible cancer causes. *** Types of questionnaire questions must be varied and expansive in scope. For example types of questionnaire questions: (1) What is your occupation, ( and spouse occupation )( for a child ask parents occupation.)
(2) How many hours each week do you drive ( or are a passenger ) in a motor vehicle.
( same question for a child.)
ETC... ( ABOUT 100 - 200 types of questions should be asked of different types... )
( many people should be involved in the creation of the types of questions asked on the questionnaire... )


09/07/2014 - 9:18pm

OK, I was about to say how folks best not say things like "life is a risk" and while that's true I say we also need to simply be better balanced. Then nut-ball PhD says we're evil for eating meat and it's making us feel bad about ourselves. LOL. Let me tell you something. Note who's telling your to feel bad about yourself and just know that is not what The Bible says. See the real problem is when folks start going off about something they know little about, just because it sounds politically correct. Beware these people who define "love" to you; because they don't know Him.

BTW. We've been through the cancer ordeal (harshly) and are now cancer free.

Thanks for the article. I'm trying to figure out what to do about it.

Keep grill temp under 400F?

Oil, season, marinate.

Eat more broccoli.

Lightly grill veggies?

"Clean" sear and not blacken?

I realize the article said cancer from grilling is low risk.

Lose weight and exercise more!

I got it. I'll start HUNTING! Get'er done!


07/20/2014 - 3:12am

You notice they don't give a single number in all that verbage in this or any other article abouit "dangers" in grilling. Does eating such foods mean 1 person in 10,000,000 will develop cancers or 1 in 100. Without that info the whole article is meaningless BS and its only purpose seems to be to pay researchers $$$$.


05/29/2014 - 5:31pm

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