By Denny Watkins
In the study, scientists used a questionnaire to gather information about the eating habits of 884 patients with bladder cancer and 878 cancer-free people. The researchers discovered that people who ate meat cooked well-done had a 94 percent higher risk of developing bladder cancer, while people who ate meat cooked medium-well saw a 46 percent higher risk when compared to eating rare meat.
"Cooking meat at high temperatures and for longer periods of the time creates carcinogens," explains study author Dr. Jie Lin, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
The carcinogens in well-done meat are called heterocyclic amines, or HCAs. After the compounds enter your body, they interact with digestive enzymes and take a form that can react with DNA. When enough reactive HCAs have accumulated in a cell, they create errors in the DNA that leads to runaway cell growth and cancer.
The University of Texas study further determined a genetic component to the bladder cancer-HCA link. Patients with certain genes can better eliminate HCAs from their body, leading to a marked drop in their risk of developing cancer. The researchers hope to eventually develop a genetic test that can determine whether people can safely eat a well-done steak or pork barbeque.
The study also found a high correlation between eating red meat, including pork and beef, and developing bladder cancer, although eating chicken and fish also elevated the risk of the disease.
"Most people cook red meat at high temperatures, which is what creates the harmful HCAs," says study co-author Dr. Xifeng Wu. "If you eat fried fish or fried chicken, you will also see a higher risk of cancer."
Scientists consider food cooked above 392 degrees Fahrenheit to be "high-temperature" cooking. Meat that has been boiled or poached in boiling water at 212 degrees F produces almost no harmful HCAs.
Unfortunately, undercooking pork or chicken can increase your risk of getting sick from food-borne pathogens such as salmonella or trichinella. But a tuna or beef steak seared quickly, the fresh raw fish in sushi or fish prepared ceviche style in acidic citrus juice are safer to consume. However, be aware that there's always a danger of food-borne illness whenever you consume raw or undercooked meat or fish.
Source: AOL Health