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How pan-fried meat could raise prostate cancer risk

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Plan fried meat linked to up to 40% boost in prostate cancer risk

Multiple studies show men might cut their risk of prostate cancer with dietary interventions. A new investigation suggests eating pan-fried red meat boosts the chances of advanced prostate cancer by as much as 40%, depending on how many servings a guy consumes each week. Pan-fried meat produces smoke that permeates meat with carcinogens; seemingly contributing to the disease.

In the study, investigators at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), led by Mariana Stern, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine found that men who eat more than 1.5 servings of red meat per week had a 30% higher risk of developing advanced prostate cancer.

Past studies have suggested that red meat contributes to the disease that is the second leading cause of death from cancer and affects 1 in 6 American men. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 36 men die from the disease.

The new study shows another link between eating red meat and prostate cancer risk, but suggests it also might be the result of how meat is cooked. Eating a high fat diet is also linked to higher chances of the disease.

Cooking red meat at high temperatures produces cancer causing agents that are potent, known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Other carcinogens, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are formed during the grilling or smoking of meat at high temperatures. Smoke from the meat that forms from dripping fat leaves deposits of PAH’s in the meat.

A boost in prostate cancer risk was also found by the researchers in previous studies for men who eat fried fish and poultry. The current study found fewer cases of the disease among men who reported eating baked poultry.

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Esther John, Ph.D., CPIC senior research scientist, and in Los Angeles by Sue A. Ingles, DrP.H., associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC said in a press release, "In addition, men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40 percent more likely to have advanced prostate cancer."

One of the worst red meat contributing to prostate cancer is hamburgers, but not steak, according to the study authors, especially among Hispanic men.

"We speculate that these findings are a result of different levels of carcinogen accumulation found in hamburgers, given that they can attain higher internal and external temperatures faster than steak," Stern explains.

Stern says the finding which is only observational, but important for public health. Eating a healthful diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables and avoiding fried red meat, fish and poultry could be an easy enough intervention for men who want to lower their chances of developing prostate cancer.


Joshi, A.D, Corral, R., Catsburg, C., Lewinger, J.P., Koo, J., John, E.M., Ingles, S., & Stern, M.C. (2012).
“Red meat and poultry, cooking practices, genetic susceptibility and risk of prostate cancer: Results from the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study.”
Carcinogenesis. Published online July 20, 2012; doi:10.1093/carcin/bgs242

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