Well-Done Meat and Smoking Make a Deadly Combo
Colon Cancer May Be a Result

Article date: 2001/12/12

A new study should make people rethink their choices of what to eat, how to cook it, and whether to smoke.

A study reported in the journal Carcinogenesis (Vol. 22, No. 10: 1681-1684) links well-done red meat and smoking to colon cancer.

Researchers found other dangers in the kitchen, too. Frying, broiling, and using meat drippings in cooking were also connected to colon cancer. This is because high-temperature cooking of meats creates cancer-causing chemicals in the meat.

Anna H. Wu, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Southern California, looked at 276 patients with colon cancer. The scientists asked several questions: Did these people smoke cigarettes? How long had they been smoking? How many packs a day?

They also asked the patients what they ate. Did they eat chicken, beef, or fish? Was it fried, broiled, or grilled? What "doneness" did they prefer? The researchers thought these factors might contribute to colon cancer.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals, or carcinogens. One of these chemicals also is found in high levels in some cooked meats.

The researchers thought that normal cells are exposed to these chemicals when people smoke. They also thought people's cooking habits would increase the cancer-causing chemicals in their foods. This may cause change in colon cells that lead to cancer.

The study proved for the first time that patients with a certain type of colon cancer had more exposure to these chemicals in their food, and through smoking. The more cigarettes a person smoked and the longer they smoked increased their risk.

Cooking Can Bring Out the Worst
Also, patients with this type of colon cancer ate more well-done red meat. They also ate more fried, broiled, and barbecued food, and used meat drippings in cooking (gravy usually contains meat drippings). This was true for beef, poultry, fish, and pork.

The risk of colon cancer associated with cigarettes was increased even after researchers allowed for exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in food.

People Can Take Steps to Reduce Risk
A few simple changes include:

Stop smoking
Choose more food from plant sources — eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Eat other food from plant sources like beans, rice, and pasta several times a day.
Beans are a high-fiber, high-protein, low-fat alternative to meat.
When eating meat, watch portion sizes: 1oz = matchbook; 3 oz= deck of cards; 8 oz = thin paperback book.
When eating out, have the regular hamburger instead of the double. Split an entrée with a friend.