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Updating your barbecue techniques with four simple grilling tips can go a long way in preventing cancer, says Sally Scroggs,
health education manager at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. Photos © Photo by Barry Smith

Tips for healthful grilling

By Laura Nathan-Garner

A recent report supporting the link between red and processed meats and increased colorectal cancer risk may have many backyard chefs rethinking plans to throw hot dogs and steaks on the grill. But MD Anderson experts say small considerations ― from what goes on that grill to how it’s prepared ― can keep cancer off the menu.

The good news is that you can do something to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer,” says Sally Scroggs, health education manager at MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. “Making just a few cooking adjustments when grilling can play a part in prevention.”

Scroggs recommends four barbecue tips to help ensure the thrill of the grill for many summers to come.

1. Avoid processed meats.
Cancer-causing substances form when processed meats such as bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, sausage, hot dogs and pepperoni are preserved, says the American Institute for Cancer Research. Eating these meats can damage DNA, increasing the risk of colorectal cancer.
2. Limit red meat.
Eating too much red meat such as pork, lamb and beef can raise cancer risk. Try grilling skinless chicken breasts, fish, fruits and vegetables.
3. Trim the fat.
Cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form in the smoke when fat from meat, poultry or fish drips onto the heat source. That PAH-filled smoke then coats your food.
4. Don’t char or burn meat, poultry or fish.
Charring, burning or grilling meat, poultry and fish over high temperatures causes heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to form. HCAs can damage genes, raising the risk for stomach and colorectal cancers.

To avoid HCAs:
Use a marinade. Marinating meat in vinegar, lemon juice and/or herbs can reduce HCA formation by as much as 96%.
Stick with fish. Fish contains less fat and cooks faster than meat and poultry.
Lightly oil the grill. This keeps charred materials from sticking to your food.
Pre-cook food. Less grill time means less exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
Lower the temperature. Spread coals thinly or prop the grill rack on bricks. Barbecue briquettes and hardwood products (hickory, maple) burn at lower temperatures than softwood (pine) chips.
Scrub the grill. Cleaning after each use prevents harmful chemicals from building up and transferring to food.

For more information, see the Focused on Health newsletter at


Antibody-guided drug works against ALL

An antibody packaged with a potent chemotherapy drug to selectively destroy acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells eradicated or greatly reduced the disease for 61% of 46 patients in a phase II study led by MD Anderson investigators and funded by a grant from Pfizer. Patients enrolled in the trial had ALL that resisted other therapies or recurred after treatment.

Findings were presented at the 47th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago June 3-7.

“A response rate of more than 50% in this patient population probably makes inotuzumab ozogamicin the most active single-agent therapy ever for ALL,” says Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., professor and chair of MD Anderson’s Department of Leukemia and study senior investigator.

ALL is an aggressive form of leukemia in which immature white blood cells, called lymphoblasts, grow rapidly, crowding out normal blood cells.


Yoga study shows benefits to cancer patients

Yoga’s mind-body interventions have a positive impact on the health of cancer patients, according to research findings presented at the 2011 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Photo by Karen Hensley

Mind-body interventions are beneficial to the health of cancer patients, so found an 
MD Anderson study, in collaboration with India’s largest yoga research institution, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana in Bangalore.

Women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy who participated in yoga experienced improved physical functioning, better general health and lower stress hormone levels, and were better able to find meaning in their cancer experience.

“The combination of mind and body practices that are part of yoga have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical distress associated with treatment and life after cancer, beyond the benefits of simple stretching,” says Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor and director of 
MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Program.   

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center