WASHINGTON – People who regularly eat burned or charred red meat, like that cooked on a grill, have a 60 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer, U.S. researchers reported Tuesday.
The finding is one of the strongest yet linking very well-done meat, especially red meat, to cancer.
"Our findings in this study are further evidence that turning down the heat when grilling, frying, and barbecuing to avoid excess burning or charring of the meat may be a sensible way for some people to lower their risk for getting pancreatic cancer," Kristin Anderson of the University of Minnesota, who led the study, said in a statement.
"I've focused my research on pancreatic cancer for some time to identify ways to prevent this cancer because treatments are very limited and the cancer is often rapidly fatal," said Anderson, who presented her findings to meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Denver.
Charred meat contains several known cancer-causing chemicals, including heterocyclic amines. Many studies have linked these compounds with cancer risk, although they have mostly been based on people remembering what they ate in the past.
Anderson's team started with 62,000 healthy people and documented what they actually did eat.
Over nine years, 208 were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When divided into five groups based on how much charred meat such as hamburgers they ate, the people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer were far more likely to be in the top two groups.
"We found that those who preferred very well-done steak were almost 60 percent more likely to get pancreatic cancer as those who ate steak less well-done or did not eat steak," Anderson said.
"Those with the highest intake of very well-done meat had a 70 percent higher risk for pancreatic cancer over those with the lowest consumption."
However, another study done at the conference found no link between eating charred meat and the risk of colon cancer.