bbq cancer study

BBQ Linked To Cancer By New Study: Grilling And Frying Produce Dangerous Carcinogens

Barbecue season may already be over for the year, but a new study published in Cancer Research may have you thinking twice before you ever fire up your grill again. The study links diets high in BBQ to cancer, which dovetails with the World Health Organization announcement last month that warned against red and processed meat consumption.

In the new study, researchers from the University of Texas examined the eating habits of both cancer patients and healthy people. The cancer patients were specifically suffering from renal cell carcinoma, which is a type of kidney caner. In total, 656 cancer patients and 699 healthy people were involved in the study.

barbecue carcinogens
According to a new study, it’s the char from BBQ, not the kind of meat that causes cancer. [Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images]
The intent of the study was to look for a correlation between “meat-cooking mutagens” and renal cell carcinoma. According to the abstract of the associated article published in Cancer Research, the term “meat-cooking mutagens” refers to certain compounds that are formed during specific types of cooking processes, like barbecuing. That these compounds are formed during certain cooking processes is an established fact, so the intent of the study was to look for a correlation between the mutagens and an increased risk of renal cell carcinoma.

In order to draw this connection, the study involved gathering information on the dietary habits of the cancer patients and the control group.

According to The Washington Post, the study determined that the cancer patients consumed more red and white meat in comparison to people in the control group. From this information, the researchers theorize that consuming meat-cooking mutagens results in an increased risk of kidney cancer.

In a statement released to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where the research was performed, senior author of the study Dr. Xifeng Wu suggested that the data indicates that both eating meat, and preparing it with methods like BBQ, increase the risk of cancer.

“We found elevated RCC risk associated with both meat intake and meat-cooking mutagens, suggesting independent effect of meat-cooking mutagens on RCC risk,” Dr. Xifeng Wu said in that statement.

According to a news release from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the study indicates that preparing meat over an open flame is particularly dangerous, as it can create a number of carcinogens.

“Cooking meat at high temperatures or over an open flame, such as when barbecuing or pan-frying, is known to result in the formation of carcinogens, including 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo(4,5-b) pyridine (PhIP) and amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f) quinoxaline (MeIQx).”

The study found a 54 percent increase in kidney cancer connected to ingesting PhIP, while MeIQx was associated with a doubling in the chances of developing renal cell carcinoma.

The reason that these carcinogens have such an affect on the kidneys may be due to the way that kidneys work to filter out harmful toxins. When you ingest carcinogens like PhIP and MeIQx, they end up in the kidneys, where they can have a mutagenic effect that ultimately results in cancer, or so the authors of the study believe.

bbq white meat cancer
Even white meat can cause cancer when it is barbecued, according to the new study. [Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]
Since the creation of these carcinogens is specifically associated with cooking meat over an open flame, barbecue takes the brunt of the heat. However, any method of cooking that results in charred meat can also create these compounds. Pan-frying can also create the same cancer-causing compounds, as can a number of other cooking methods.

While the new study doesn’t recommend cutting meat out of your diet entirely, it does suggest that you avoid cooking methods that involve open flames and very high heat. If you barbecue, or pan-fry, you can reduce the amount of carcinogens by not actually charring the meat.

This isn’t the first time the public has heard that eating meat could have severe consequences, but white meat usually gets a pass. According to this study, the type of meat doesn’t matter as much as the way that it is cooked, and BBQ chicken is as likely to cause cancer as BBQ beef. Do you think that this new information will change your mind on barbecuing, or delicious, well-charred meat, or are you willing to take the risk?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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