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Cooking Meat At High Temperatures Increases Kidney Cancer Risk

Another study adds to mounting research in linking consumption of charred, pan-fried, and other meats cooked at high temperatures to an increased cancer risk.

A team out of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, writing in the journal CANCER, found that a high-meat diet – through carcinogenic compounds created by high-temperature cooking – may lead to a higher risk for renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer.

People with certain genetic mutations, too, were seen to be at a greater risk for the harmful compounds created by such cooking methods.

"We found elevated RCC risk associated with both meat intake and meat-cooking mutagens, suggesting independent effect of meat-cooking mutagens on RCC risk," said Dr. Xifeng Wu, senior study author and epidemiology professor.

Based on the study findings, kidney cancer patients ate more red and white meat than their healthy peers. The team then identified a higher risk linked to carcinogens PhIP (54 percent higher) and MeIQx (nearly twofold).

Harmful compounds such as the two carcinogens above are created via high-heat or open-flame cooking, including when pan-frying or barbecuing.

Lead author Dr. Stephanie Melkonian said the kidney filters many dangerous toxins from the body, and it is therefore important to investigate the effects of consuming these meats – which is higher-than-average in Western diets – on kidney cancer risk.

The study was also ahead of others in probing the connection between genetic kidney cancer risk factors and the intake of meat-cooking mutagens.

“We found that high intake of these carcinogens may be particularly meaningful for a certain subgroup of the population," Melkonian warned, referring to individuals with variations in the ITPR2 gene, who were found more sensitive to the dangers of consuming PhIP.

The researchers gathered data from 659 hospital patients newly diagnosed with kidney cancer, along with 699 healthy subjects. They used information from a National Cancer Institute database to estimate meat intake and exposure to mutagens.

They recommended moderate meat consumption within a balanced diet that includes vegetables and fruits. They suggested avoiding charring meat as much as possible when pan-frying or grilling meat.

Nutritional expert Dr. Ian Johnson of the Institute of Food Research in Britain said that increased kidney cancer incidence in higher-income nations is likely due in part to Western eating habits.

“[T]he findings are plausible but this is a single relatively small study, and the authors themselves stress the need for further research,” he said, calling for staying with health department guidelines for consuming red and processed meats.

According to the latest statistics from the American Cancer Society, about 60,000 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed this year and kill about 14,000 lives. The number of kidney cancer cases has been rising since the 1990s, with the elderly and men at a higher risk.

Photo: Christopher Craig | Flickr

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