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Eating Charred Meat May Double Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Some people say there's nothing better than the taste of meat grilled over an open fire, but eating too much of it appears to increase the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Kristen Anderson, at the University Of Minnesota School Of Public Health, researched the effects of eating meat cooked at high temperatures to the point of burning and charring. In analyzing data from a study involving more than 62,000 Americans, she reports, "We see increasing risk of pancreatic cancer - as much as two-fold in some of the highest categories - with increasing consumption."

Anderson saw the higher risk in people who ate more than one-and-a-half servings of charred meat per day. Charring meat creates carcinogens - cancer-causing chemicals - in much the same way burning tobacco does.

Pancreatic cancer is among the most deadly, killing half of those stricken within three months, and Anderson says such cancer was less prevalent among people who ate mostly baked or stewed meat.

"If you cook meat just to doneness and don't form a lot of external charring or brownness, you don't form high levels of these compounds."

If they do form on the meat, she says, you can just cut the burned part off.

There are other ways to reduce the risk of cancer-causing compounds.

"Wrap it in foil. Wrap it in leaves of some sort - corn husks that are soaked in water. Some people cook meat in that with juices around it. So anything that helps break the contact directly with the hot surface is a way to help reduce the level of these carcinogens."

Charred meat's link to pancreatic cancer is only its latest association with the disease. Earlier studies have tied it to breast cancer as well prostate and colon cancer. Anderson's study was presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.