Meat cooked at high temperatures to the point of burning
and charring may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, according
to data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research
100th Annual Meeting 2009.
Kristin Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor at the University
of Minnesota School of Public Health, said the finding was
linked to consumption of well and very well done meats cooked
by frying, grilling or barbecuing. Cooking in this way can
form carcinogens, which do not form when meat is baked or
Anderson and colleagues conducted a prospective analysis
that included 62,581 participants. "My research has been
focused on pancreatic cancer for some time, and we want to
identify ways to prevent this cancer because treatments are
very limited and the cancer is often rapidly fatal,"
Anderson and colleagues used information from surveys that
were a part of the PLCO (Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian)
Multi-center Screening Trial. Participants provided information
about their meat intake, preferred cooking methods and doneness
Over the course of nine years, researchers identified 208
cases of pancreatic cancer. Preferences for high temperature
cooked meat were generally linked with an increased risk;
subjects who preferred very well done steak were almost 60
percent as likely to get pancreatic cancer as compared to
those who ate steak less well done or did not eat steak. When
overall consumption and doneness preferences were used to
estimate the meat-derived carcinogen intake for subjects,
those with highest intake had 70 percent higher risk than
those with the lowest intake.
"We cannot say with absolute certainty that the risk
is increased due to carcinogens formed in burned meat,"
said Anderson. "However, those who enjoy either fried
or barbecued meat should consider turning down the heat or
cutting off burned portions when it's finished; cook meat
sufficiently to kill bacteria without excess charring. In
addition, the precursors of cancer-causing compounds can be
reduced by microwaving the meat for a few minutes and pouring
off the juices before cooking it on the grill."