Cut the Cancer Risk From Your Backyard Barbeque

Backyard barbeques are the quintessential American summertime activity. They're a great way to spend time with family and friends and enjoy fresh, seasonal food cooked outdoors. However, it pays to be cautious when grilling meat. Scientists have linked barbequed meat to an increased risk of developing cancer.

The Link

Numerous studies have linked the consumption of red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and processed meats to an increased risk for a wide range of cancers, including bladder, colorectal, pancreatic, esophageal, ovarian, stomach, endometriosis, and prostate. Most meats are high in fat, which prompts our body to produce excess hormones. This may promote the growth of cancer cells in hormone-sensitive organs.

The process of cooking red meat on the grill at high temperatures produces compounds associated with cancer. Furthermore, grilling or broiling over a direct flame causes fat from the meat to drop into the fire and produce smoke, which also contains cancer-causing compounds.

Although tasty, processed meats such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, and sausages cause far more harm than good. When processing meat, manufacturers use cancer-causing chemicals such as nitrates and nitrates to preserve them.

The evidence is overwhelming that people who consume a primarily vegetarian diet reduce their risk of cancer. Unfortunately, there are no federal guidelines for safe grilling. However, you don't have to forgo your favorite summertime tradition. With a little planning, you can have your steak and eat it too. The American Institute for Cancer Research, the National Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and The Cancer Project offer tips for safe barbequing.

  • Limit weekly consumption of cooked red meat to 18 ounces or less. When cooked, a typical small hamburger, pork chop, or lamp chops is about four ounces; a T-bone steak is about 10.

  • Avoid processed meats such as hot dogs and sausage.

  • Chose lean cuts of meat or ground beef that's at least 90 percent lean. Marinate meat before grilling.

  • Eat more poultry and fish.

  • Remove the skin from poultry before cooking and trim visible fat from meat.

  • Cook meat at lower temperatures and flip frequently.

  • Grill smaller pieces of meat so they cook quickly and at a lower temperature.

  • Avoid exposing meat to open flames or hot metal surfaces.

  • Removed charred portions of meat before eating and don't make gravy with the meat drippings.

  • Eat small portions of meat and make fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains the foundation of your meal.



Paddock, Catharine, PhD. "Hot Dogs Should Carry Cancer Warning Labels Says US Non Profit Group." Medical News Today.Web. 23 July 2009.

Cross, Amanda J., Ferrucci, Leah M., Risch, Adam, Graubard, Barry I., Ward, Mary H., Park, Yikyung, Hollenbeck, Albert R., Schatzkin, Arthur, and Sinha, Rashmi. "A Large Prospective Study of Meat Consumption and Colorectal Cancer Risk: An Investigation of Potential Mechanisms Underlying this Association." Cancer Research 70 (2010): 2406. Web. 9 March 2010.

"Cancer Facts - Meat Consumption and Cancer Risk." Web.

 "Landmark Report: Excess Body Fat Causes Cancer; Panel Also Implicates Red Meat, Processed Meat and Alcohol." American Association of Cancer Research. Web.

National Cancer Institute. "Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk." Web.
15 October 2010.

Harvard Medical School. "Tips for safer and healthier grilling, from the Harvard Health Letter." Web. June 2007.