Does Grilling Cause Cancer?

| Posted On Jul 18, 2013 | By:


Summer grilling season is in full swing! Many New Englanders love to use their grills all summer long and rarely turn on the oven from May until September. Grilling makes mealtime cooking and clean up so much easier, and most of us prefer the flavor of some healthier foods like fish and vegetables when they are grilled.  Studies have been released indicating that there is an increased risk of cancer from some types of grilled food. But don’t dismay, grill masters, we have tips to help you prepare your food safely!

Processed and red meat and cancer

Researchers have known for years that people who eat more processed and red meat have a higher risk of cancer, specifically colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) notes that the risk of colon and rectal cancer rises by about 20 percent for every serving or red or processed meat you eat per day.  According to the AICR, that includes things like steak and burgers as well as pork, lamb, ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages, all big grilling favorites.

The nitrites used to color and preserve processed meats (ever wonder why corned beef is pink?) are the suspected link between processed meats and cancer. Research on a link between unprocessed red meat and cancer is still unclear.


Try to eat no more than 4-6 oz (cooked weight) of processed and/or red meat each week. Instead of these foods, substitute more lean chicken breast, fish, and of course, lots of veggies.

HCA and grilling

Another area of concern is something called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These are cancer-causing agents that are formed when meat, poultry or fish is cooked to well done and charred during grilling.  There haven’t been many research studies on these compounds and their specific link to cancer, but let’s play it safe and try to avoid them, anyway. The good news is that they are easy to avoid, and you can still enjoy your grilled foods.


So grill on readers, but do it safely!

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  1. I am diabetic..would like to try more low carb and vegatarian dishes….however I do not know where to begin. Love vegtables…do well with low carb foods….less bread etc. I just do not know how to begin such a program…..I am obese and would love to take off the excess weight as well as lower blood pressure etc.
    Thank you,

    Comment by Dorothy L. Welch on January 20, 2014 at 5:59 am
  2. By all means, you should start by speaking with your doctor. He or she is in the best position to review your medical history and make suggestions that are right for you. Good luck!

    Comment by Harvard Vanguard on February 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm

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