Barbecue cancer risk

American scientists have warned consumers to turn the barbecue down this summer, with new research suggesting that consumption of burnt and charred meat might increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that carcinogens form when meat is cooked at high temperatures by grilling, frying or barbecuing. They do not form when meat is baked or stewed.

For the study, associate professor at the university, Kristin Anderson Ph.D, and her team conducted a prospective analysis that included 62,581 participants, who provided information about their meat intake, preferred cooking methods and doneness preferences.

Over the course of nine years, researchers identified 208 cases of pancreatic cancer. Preferences for high temperature cooked meat were generally linked to an increased risk; subjects who preferred very well-done steak were almost 60% as likely to get pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate steak less well done or did not eat steak.

When overall consumption and doneness preferences were used to estimate the meat-derived carcinogen intake for subjects, those with highest intake had 70% higher risk than those with the lowest intake.

“We cannot say with absolute certainty that the risk is increased due to carcinogens formed in burned meat,” said Anderson.

“However, those who enjoy either fried or barbecued meat should consider turning down the heat or cutting off burned portions when it’s finished; cook meat sufficiently to kill bacteria without excess charring.

“In addition, the precursors of cancer-causing compounds can be reduced by microwaving the meat for a few minutes and pouring off the juices before cooking it on the grill.”