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Meaty Facts: Pan-fried Red Meat Raises Prostate Cancer Risk By 40%, Says Study

Meaty Facts: Pan-fried Red Meat Raises Prostate Cancer Risk By 40%, Says Study
8/17/2012 6:21 AM ET

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States, after lung cancer. It is estimated that about 241,740 American men will develop prostate cancer this year. It is already known that red and processed meat may increase risk of advanced prostate cancer. A new study by researchers from the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine has found that eating red meats cooked at high temperatures, especially pan-fried red meats, may increase the risk of prostate cancer by 40 percent.

Though previous studies had revealed a connection between diets rich in red meat and the risk of prostate cancer, the evidence had been limited.

As part of study, researchers looked at data collected from 2,000 men who had participated in a multi-ethnic, case-control study called the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study held in the San Francisco bay Area and in Los Angeles. Details of their eating habits including the quantity and type of meat intake, including processed red meat and poultry were gathered in a questionnaire.

Information on the method of cooking such as pan frying, oven broiling and grilling was obtained with color photographs to get a clear picture on how well the meat had been prepared. More than 1,000 of the participants were diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

Mariana Stern, associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, who led the analysis of the study said, "We found that men who ate more than 1.5 servings of pan-fried red meat per week increased their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 30 percent. She added, "In addition, men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40 percent more likely to have advanced prostate cancer."

The study found that certain red meats like hamburgers, but not steaks, were linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, especially among Hispanic men. The analyst added "We speculate that these findings are a result of different levels of carcinogen accumulation found in hamburgers, given that they can attain higher internal and external temperatures faster than steak."

The research revealed that men who followed diets rich in baked poultry had a lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer while consumption of pan-fried poultry increased the risk. Stern noted that pan-frying of any type of meat consistently led to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Her earlier study had revealed that fish that was cooked at high temperatures, especially pan-fried fish, also led to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Though researchers are not sure why pan-frying increased the risk of prostate cancer, they think it might be due to the formation of carcinogens like heterocyclic amines (HCAs), when that cooking method is adopted. HCAs are formed when sugars and amino acids are cooked at higher temperatures for long periods of time. Other carcinogens like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed when meat is grilled or smoked. During this process, when fat from the meat drips into an open flame, the rising smoke deposits PAHs on the meat.

There is strong experimental evidence to show that HCAs and PAHs cause certain cancers including prostate cancer.

Stern said, "The observations from this study alone are not enough to make any health recommendations, but given the few modifiable risk factors known for prostate cancer, the understanding of dietary factors and cooking methods are of high public health relevance."

The study was published online in the journal Carcinogenesis in July.

by RTT Staff Writer

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