It has been known for some time that well-done, grilled meats contain potentially carcinogenic compounds. Population studies have not found a definite link between cooked meat and cancer in humans, but research using questionnaires has found that increased consumption of well done, fried or barbequed meats is tied to an increased risk of colon, pancreas and prostate cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, when animal muscle protein is cooked at high temperatures it produces byproduct substances (e.g., heterocyclic amines) that can modify DNA function. A new study published in the journal Cancer shed additional light on this hazard by concluding that genetically-susceptible people who eat large amounts of meat cooked at high temperature or over an open flame have a higher risk of kidney cancer. “A few previous studies have looked at kidney cancer and these carcinogens, but this is the first study to find an association between one of these specific mutagens (MeIQx) and kidney cancer risk,” said senior author Dr. Xifeng Wu of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. MeIQx is one of the heterocyclic amines formed by high temperature cooking. “This is also the first study to look at genetic variants along with consumption of these carcinogens in relation to kidney cancer risk,” Wu stated.
The researchers compared the dietary patterns and genetic risk profiles of 659 people who were recently diagnosed with kidney cancer to 699 without cancer.
The cancer patients were often obese and tended to:
Two gene variants seemed to make an individual more vulnerable to the cancer-causing chemicals in cooked meat; one involving lipid signaling within cells and another which activates other genes when oxygen levels are low. “The recent news on the carcinogenicity of red meat resulted from an existing body of literature on this topic, which focused primarily on cancer of the bowel and colon,” Wu said. She went on to explain that evidence for other cancers is not as clear and that more research needed. However, the kidney is clearly responsible for filtering numerous potentially-harmful toxins within the body, so exposure to dietary carcinogens would seem to logically have an impact on the risk for cancer in the organ. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, in 2012 there were roughly 376,000 people living with kidney cancer in the U.S., and every year, about 16 new cases are diagnosed per every 100,000 people.