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In Barbecue Season, What Are the Risks?
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In Barbecue Season, What Are the Risks?

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In Barbecue Season, What Are the Risks?

In Barbecue Season, What Are the Risks?
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It's getting to be barbecue season. People are starting to think about firing up their backyard grills, slapping on hamburgers patties and hot dogs — getting ready for warm weather. But a recent news story caught commentator Ed Cullen's eye — and got him thinking that maybe this barbecue thing isn't such a great idea.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Barbeque season is right around the corner. Warm weather is, of course, the time to fire up the grill. This week, a recent news story caught commentator Ed Cullen's ear, and got him thinking about the health implications of one of his favorite pastimes.

ED CULLEN (commentator): Do you still cook out a lot? I asked my brother-in-law. I was curious after reading one of those breathless wire dispatches from the cutting edge of science.

This one was from Reuters. Barbequed Meats Linked to Prostate Cancer. Dateline, Washington. A compound formed when meat is charred at high temperature, as in barbeque, encourages the growth of prostate cancer in rats, researchers reported Sunday. Sunday? Where was the announcement made, at a barbeque?

Do you still barbeque a lot? I asked my brother-in-law, whose grill seems always warm to the touch. Not as much as I used to, he said. Because you're afraid of getting cancer? No, West Nile. Mosquitoes are a menace in south Louisiana. I read the wire story to my brother-in-law.

Okay, hold it right there, he said. What that study's talking about is grilling meat. Barbeque isn't grilling, barbeque is a slow cooking process at low temperature. Probably some Yankee did that study. The rats are saying, hey, why are they grilling this chicken? This isn't barbeque.

Years ago, my wife read that charred meat might cause cancer, and I stopped cooking outside. This latest story is about the possible discovery of the compound in burned meat that might cause the disease.

I didn't want to quit grilling meat. It was a great excuse for standing around outside, drinking beer with friends. A bunch of guys standing on a wooden deck, drinking beer for hours might look like men with a drinking problem. But if you're grilling meat, then you can drink all the beer you want.

My brother-in-law and I decided that cooking out probably is bad for us. Breathing the smoke alone can't be healthy. But the news made us sad, too. It was one more thing we had to give up because it's bad for us. Without beer, cigars, coffee and now grilled meat, we could live forever, or it might just seem that long.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Commentator Ed Cullen lives in Baton Rouge, La. His collection of essays titled Letter in a Woodpile comes out next month.

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