Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Can Grilled Steaks Cause Cancer?

Tuesday, 16 Apr 2013 05:42 PM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: My husband insists on charring steaks over high heat when he grills. I have told him this can cause cancer, but he says the risk is small. What do you think?

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:

According to the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, or poultry, is cooked using high-temperature methods, such as pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame.

Researchers found that high consumption of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats was associated with increased risks of colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer, and well-designed studies are underway to know the exact risk.

Although no specific guidelines exist, HCA and PAH formation can be reduced by avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface and avoiding prolonged cooking times (especially at high temperatures); using a microwave oven to cook meat prior to exposure to high temperatures by reducing the time that meat must be in contact with high heat to finish cooking; continuously turning meat over on a high heat source compared with just leaving the meat on the heat source without flipping it often; and removing charred portions of meat and refraining from using gravy made from meat drippings.


 

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