November 09, 2015
Study: How you cook meat can affect your kidney cancer risk
BY Kellie Bramlet
Red meat and processed meat have long been linked to increased cancer risk. But did you know the way you cook meat also can affect your cancer risk?
Eating meat cooked at high temperatures through methods like barbecuing and pan-frying can increase a person's chances of developing kidney cancer, according to a new study from our researchers.
"This study encourages us to look not only at what foods we're eating, but also how we're preparing those foods," says Stephanie Melkonian, Ph.D., Epidemiology postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study.
How barbecuing and pan-frying meat affects cancer risk
When you cook meat using high temperature methods, like barbecuing and pan-frying, that result in smoke and charring on the meat, harmful compounds classified as carcinogens may form. A carcinogen is something that can cause cancer, like tobacco use or sun exposure. Because red meat generally contains more muscle and fat, researchers suspect it's more likely to produce carcinogens than lean or white meats.
More research is needed to determine if eating other foods cooked in similar ways can increase cancer risk, too.
This study adds to a growing body of research implicating red, processed, charred and smoked meats in cancers of the colon, kidney, and other organ sites.
The study also found that these carcinogens may put some people at higher risk for kidney cancer based on their genetics. For this reason, Melkonian suggests learning more about your family cancer history and looking at your diet.
Take steps to lower your cancer risk
The good news is that there are ways you can maintain a healthy diet and lower your cancer risk. Follow these steps.
- Eat a plant-based diet. Two-thirds of your plate should be made up of food that comes from plants, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Limit red meat and avoid processed meats. If you do eat red meat, eat no more than 18 ounces per week. That's about the size of three decks of cards or four tennis balls.
- Try these healthier protein options:
- Plant proteins (beans, legumes and soy)
- Turkey breast
- Low-fat dairy foods
- Consider new or different ways to cook your meat. Because barbecuing, pan-frying and cooking meat over an open flame produce carcinogens, try other methods, like baking or broiling. If you decide to grill meat, use these practices to avoid exposure to cancer-causing substances:
- Use another indirect heat cooking method like microwaving or baking to partially cook meat before throwing it on the grill
- Try not to char or burn meat.
- Use an acidic citrus- or vinegar-based marinade before cooking meat
- Trim the fat and skin.
"We can all change what we eat," says Carrie Daniel-MacDougall, Ph.D., Epidemiology assistant professor. "I know it's not easy, but it's something we can do to lower our cancer risk."
TopicsKidney Cancer Nutrition Prevention
This study encourages us to look not only at what foods we're eating, but also how we're preparing those foods.