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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.

COMMENTS POSTEDsort icon

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.

Anonymous

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... )

Anonymous

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!

Anonymous

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 $$$$.

Anonymous

05/29/2014 - 5:31pm

Human beings have been grilling meat since the beginning of it existence.

Anonymous

05/19/2014 - 4:19pm

Cooking anything denatures is and it loses its nutrients. We need more life giving foods. Eat your raw veggies people. Less cooked food period is ideal.

Anonymous

05/15/2014 - 9:17am

Maybe if you stuff " thousands of times the dosage " of almost anything into a rat, something is bound to go bad. Maybe.

Anonymous

03/19/2014 - 11:11am

Very confusing but need to review cooking methods i feel .

Anonymous

09/01/2013 - 5:02pm

testing one two

Anonymous

08/02/2013 - 1:33pm

I have never met an old vegan. Are there any?

Anonymous

07/17/2013 - 3:55pm

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