Scientists warn that frying, barbecuing or grilling meat may double kidney cancer risk

frying beef steak on a ribbed grill pan with smoke

TEXAS, United States, Wednesday November 11, 2015 – Hot on the heels of a World Health Organisation report warning that the consumption of processed and red meats is more dangerous than previously thought, another study has shown that people who eat more meat have a high risk of cancer. This time, it’s kidney cancer, American researchers reported on Monday.

Worse, it’s not just people who eat red meat, as many other studies have shown. People who eat more so-called white meat, such as chicken, have the higher risk, too, NBC News reports.

Dr Xifeng Wu and colleagues at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston studied 659 patients just diagnosed with kidney cancer and compared them to 699 cancer-free people.

The scientists wanted to uncover the link and pin down the factors that might explain it. They looked at what kinds of meat people ate and how they cooked it, as well as their genetic makeup to see if certain genes made them more susceptible.

Those who said they ate the most grilled meat, including chicken, had a higher risk of kidney cancer, they reported in the journal Cancer. Those with two genetic mutations that already put people at higher risk of kidney cancer were most affected by the grilled meat risk.

Experts have long known that grilling or barbecuing meat can make it carcinogenic. Burning or charring meat creates cancer-causing substances.

In this case, the two culprits Dr Wu’s team looked for were 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo(4,5-b) pyridine (PhIP for short ) and amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f) quinoxaline (MeIQx for short).

Their results showed that people who consumed the most chemicals present in charred meat were nearly twice as likely as those who ate the least to develop renal cell carcinoma, the most common form of kidney cancer in adults.

“Our study provides additional evidence for the role of red meat and white meat in renal cell carcinoma, and is the first study to suggest an association with the chemicals commonly created in grilling, barbecuing, and pan-frying meats at high temperatures,” Wu said.

Earlier studies had found a link between charred meat and cancers of the colon, stomach, prostate and pancreas.

Kidney cancer is among the 10 most common cancers in men and women and its incidence is increasing, according to the American Cancer Society.

“For reasons that are not totally clear, the rate of new kidney cancers has been rising since the 1990s, although this seems to have levelled off in the past few years,” the Cancer Society said in a statement on its website.

“Part of this rise was probably due to the use of newer imaging tests such as CT scans, which picked up some cancers that might never have been found otherwise,” the statement added.

Dr Wu’s team also wonders whether an increase in eating meat might explain some of it.

“The American/Western dietary pattern consists largely of red and processed meats, and the results of the current study suggest that the association between this dietary pattern and cancer may be in part explained by exposure to meat cooking mutagens,” they wrote.

Last month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a controversial report that stated definitively that processed meats such as sausages and bacon cause cancer and that red meat probably does.

Officials classified processed meat on the same cancer-causing level as cigarettes and asbestos, while red meat was placed one grade lower as “probably cancerous.”

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