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Charring Meat May Boost Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Increases production of carcinogens thought to invite disease, study finds

TUESDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- You may love your steak well done, but eating burned or charred meat may increase your risk of pancreatic cancer, a new study suggests.

Researchers used data on the meat intake, preferred cooking methods and doneness preferences of nearly 63,000 participants taking part in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Multi-Center Screening Trial

Over the course of nine years, 208 developed pancreatic cancer.

Meat-eaters who preferred their steak very well done were almost 60 percent more likely to get pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate steak less well done or did not eat steak.

Researchers then estimated carcinogen intake based on overall meat consumption and doneness preferences. Those with highest intake had 70 percent higher risk than those with the lowest intake.

Frying, grilling or barbecuing meat to the point of charring can form carcinogens, which do not form when meat is baked or stewed, explained Kristin Anderson, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, in Denver.

Anderson suggesting cooking meat thoroughly enough to kill bacteria but avoiding charring. The precursors of cancer-causing compounds can also be reduced by microwaving the meat for a few minutes and pouring off the juices before cooking it on the grill.

"We cannot say with absolute certainty that the risk is increased due to carcinogens formed in burned meat," Anderson said. "However, those who enjoy either fried or barbecued meat should consider turning down the heat or cutting off burned portions when it's finished."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on pancreatic cancer.

--Jennifer Thomas

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, April 21, 2009

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