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Don’t fry your meat — here’s why

SNN3127C_682_694991aFrom Johns Hopkins Health Alerts

It’s not just what eat, it’s how you cook it. Research from the University of Southern California (USC) and the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) reports that cooking red meats at high temperatures, especially pan-fried red meats, may increase the risk of advanced prostate cancer by as much as 40 percent.

The researchers, led by Mariana Stern, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, believe that potent chemical carcinogens formed when meats are cooked at high temperatures may contribute to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

The researchers examined pooled data from nearly 2,000 men who participated in the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study, a multiethnic, case-controlled study conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area. The study participants completed a comprehensive questionnaire that evaluated amount and type of meat intake, including poultry and processed red meat. Information regarding cooking practices (e.g., pan-frying, oven-broiling and grilling) was obtained using color photographs that displayed the level of doneness. More than 1,000 of the men included in the study had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

Reporting in the journal Carcinogenesis, the researchers noted that men who ate more than 1.5 servings of pan-fried red meat per week increased their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 30 percent. Those men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40 percent more likely to have advanced prostate cancer.

When considering specific types of red meats, hamburgers — but not steak — were linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, especially among Hispanic men. The researchers speculate that this is because of higher levels of carcinogen accumulation in hamburgers, which can attain higher internal and external temperatures faster than steak. What was also found was that men with diets high in roasted poultry had a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, while consumption of pan-fried poultry was associated with increased risk.

The bottom line: Pan-frying, regardless of meat type, consistently led to an increased risk of prostate cancer. The researchers do not know why pan-frying poses a higher risk of prostate cancer, but they suspect it is due to the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) — DNA-damaging carcinogens that are created during the high-heat cooking of red meat and poultry. These carcinogens are formed when sugars and amino acids are exposed to higher temperatures for longer periods.

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