JAN 11, 2017 5:46 AM PST

Grilled Meats May Affect Survival of Breast Cancer Patients

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

When it comes to summertime eats, grilled and barbecued meats are widely popular. And some people even go further and insist on a little char on their food. A few studies have associated the smoked foods to increased cancer susceptibility. But breast cancer survivors may do well to heed this warning, as new findings link this type of cooked meat to higher mortality rates, specifically among these individuals.

Some people really like a little charring on their foods. Consider that some foods, such as corn or any type of barbequed meat, are even intentionally burnt a little to boost taste. In fact, the food chain Famous Dave's has made a popular signature dish out of slightly burnt meats, aptly called "Burnt Ends." While the smoky flavors and photogenic grill marks are well and tasty, why do they pose a cancer hazard?

When foods are cooked at high temperatures, chemical reactions alter the molecules in the foods. In particular, the National Cancer Institute lists two classes of chemicals formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures: Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These two chemicals are linked to DNA alterations and cancer in animal models. 

And while the cancer-causing effects of these chemicals are well-documented, what do these chemicals do for people who have successfully battled breast cancer? To answer this question, scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sampled over 1,500 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 or 1997. The women reported their intake of grilled, barbeque, and smoked meat at baseline, and again at five-year intervals after the cancer treatment.

The analyzed data revealed a startling link – women who consumed more of these meats had a 23 percent increase risk of dying from the breast cancer than women who consumed low levels of the meats. In addition, among women who consumed a high amount of barbequed meat after their breast cancer diagnosis, the mortality risk was 31 percent. By contrast, consumption of the smoked meat was not linked to increased death risks in people without prior breast cancer diagnosis.

"High intake of grilled/barbecued and smoked meat may increase mortality after breast cancer,” concluded the authors in their study.

Although the study did not pose a mechanism behind this increased mortality rate for breast cancer survivors and smoked meat, it’s plausible to imagine that the aforementioned chemicals, HCAs and PAHs, are at play. Perhaps the DNA in these individuals are more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of these chemicals, thereby causing a bigger mutation load versus individuals without a prior breast cancer diagnosis.

While more research uncovers the mechanism behind this link, perhaps we would all benefit by the moderation rule when it comes to eating grilled foods.

Additional sources: MNT, EurekAlert!

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 11, 2020
Cancer
Targeting Senescence in the Peripheral Nervous System to Fight Toxicity
SEP 11, 2020
Targeting Senescence in the Peripheral Nervous System to Fight Toxicity
Chemotherapy is a life-saving discovery for cancer patients. One of its biggest drawbacks is the toxicity that comes wit ...
SEP 08, 2020
Cancer
The story of a very scary protein
SEP 08, 2020
The story of a very scary protein
New research from biochemists at the University of Alberta has identified a protein that triggers the growth of aggressi ...
SEP 13, 2020
Cancer
Should we be treating kidney cancer differently?
SEP 13, 2020
Should we be treating kidney cancer differently?
New research published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research is questioning how we treat kidney tumors. According ...
OCT 14, 2020
Cancer
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
OCT 14, 2020
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
Cold atmospheric plasma is a relatively new technique that utilizes a tool that generates a sort of plasma scalpel, exce ...
OCT 29, 2020
Cancer
Eat until you are only 70% full to reduce risk of fatty liver and liver cancer
OCT 29, 2020
Eat until you are only 70% full to reduce risk of fatty liver and liver cancer
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is known to be a risk factor for liver cancer because of an excess of fat accumulation ...
NOV 18, 2020
Cancer
Could Targeting the Proteasome be Effective Against Cancer?
NOV 18, 2020
Could Targeting the Proteasome be Effective Against Cancer?
One of the trickiest things about anti-cancer drug design is targeting. Today, most drugs on the market target critical ...
Loading Comments...