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Barbecuing for the Fourth of July? Here’s the Rub on Grilled Meats and Carcinogens

Outdoor barbeques are a staple of summer traditions in America. After all, what would the Fourth of July be without burgers and hot dogs on the grill? Unfortunately for those who love a char-broiled steak or barbeque chicken, studies have shown that grilled meats can increase the risk of developing cancer.

“We know that grilling, broiling and barbecuing meat, fish or other animal proteins can form potential carcinogens,” said Melaine Hendershott, a dietitian and board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition at Shaw Cancer Center. “The good news is, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the carcinogens in barbecued meats so you can still enjoy the tastes of the grill without the fear of getting cancer.”

Skilled grill masters and amateurs alike should be aware of the carcinogens that are formed as part of the grilling process, according to the National Cancer Institute and other medical sources. Heterocyclic amines can form in meat when proteins react to the intense heat of high-temperature cooking methods like grilling, pan-frying or broiling. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are chemicals found only on grilled or smoked meat. They form when meat juices drip onto the heating surface and cause flames and smoke. The smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that then adhere to the surface of the meat. Both heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can form on beef, pork, fish or poultry, and they have been shown to cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.

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