Eating a Lot of Meats Linked to Number of Cancers A new medical study links high consumption of red and processed meats to an increased risk of different forms of cancer. Health experts already knew red meat increased the risk of colon cancer. Now researchers have found an increased risk for a number of other cancers, as well.
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Eating a Lot of Meats Linked to Number of Cancers

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Eating a Lot of Meats Linked to Number of Cancers

Eating a Lot of Meats Linked to Number of Cancers

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

And NPR's Patti Neighmond has more.

PATTI NEIGHMOND: Epidemiologist Amanda Cross headed the study.

NEIGHMOND: We've followed them for up to eight years, during which time we had just over 53,000 cancers diagnosed.

NEIGHMOND: To analyze the relationship between meat-eating and cancer, Cross divided people into five groups - from the biggest meat eaters down to those who ate the least amount of meat, including a few vegetarians. Red meat included all types of beef, pork and lamb, processed meats included cold cuts and luncheon meats as well as sausages, bacon and hotdogs, beef as well as turkey hotdogs.

NEIGHMOND: On a diet of 2,000 calories a day, which is average for a man, the lowest category of red meat was equivalent to three thin slices of ham or less a day, and the highest category was approximately equivalent to 10 thin slices of ham, or a Quarter Pounder, or a small steak, or a pork chop a day.

NEIGHMOND: As expected, Cross found more cases of colon cancer among the big meat eaters, but she also found about the same increase in lung cancer with big meat eaters, as well as increases in cancers of the esophagus and liver. Among men, there was an increase in pancreatic cancer. Researchers speculate cancer results from several chemical compounds that are found in the meat itself, but also that develop during the process of cooking.

NEIGHMOND: Compounds that are formed during high-temperature cooking techniques that have been shown to damage DNA in animal and in-vitro studies.

NEIGHMOND: Robin Curin(ph) is a dietitian at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Curin works with cancer patients; she says results from studies like this don't necessarily mean people should stay away from red meat altogether.

NEIGHMOND: In general, we don't recommend necessarily excluding red meat from your diet unless it's a personal choice. It does have a lot of good attributes like iron and B-vitamins, protein, and so forth particularly if leaner meats are selected.

NEIGHMOND: And if people do choose to eat red meat, Curin says they should avoid high-temperature cooking like barbecuing and pan frying, which cause the cell-damaging compounds to form. Grilling meat over a direct flame results in fat or meat juices dripping on to the hot fire and that, in turn, creates flames that contain the harmful compounds as well. They can adhere to the surface of the food, and that can happen with chicken and turkey as well as red meat.

NEIGHMOND: It's why we recommend, like, if you're barbecuing, say, particularly chicken. For example, you want to maybe microwave it halfway cooked and then put it on the barbecue. You don't want to cook it the whole duration because that really increases the risk of these compounds forming which are known carcinogens.

NEIGHMOND: Patti Neighmond, NPR New.

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