Kidney Cancer: The Fried, Barbecued Red Meat Connection


Lovers of barbecued meat (otherwise known as suya in most African countries) are in for a tough time as pan-fried, grilled or barbecued meat, cooked at high temperatures or over an open flame, may increase the risk of kidney cancer, a new study has claimed.

The study indicates that a meat-rich diet may increase the risk of developing kidney cancer through mechanisms related to particular cooking compounds. These associations may be modified by genetic susceptibility to kidney cancer. The study illustrates how diet and genetics may interact to impact cancer risk. The incidence of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common form of kidney cancer in adults, has been increasing in the US and other developed nations, researchers said. Researchers suspected that factors related to a western lifestyle – such as a diet high in meats, processed foods, and starches – may play an important role in this trend.

To investigate, a team led by Xifeng Wu, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre in Houston, studied the dietary intake and genetic risk factors of 659 patients newly diagnosed with RCC and 699 healthy controls. Researchers found that kidney cancer patients consumed more red and white meat compared with cancer-free individuals. Also, cancer patients consumed more cancer-causing chemicals that are produced when meat is cooked at high temperatures or over an open flame (particularly pan-frying or barbecuing). Finally, the investigators discovered that individuals with certain genetic variants were more susceptible to the harmful effects of these cancer-causing chemicals.

While the study was small and limited to non-Hispanic whites, the findings suggest that reducing consumption of meat, especially when cooked at high temperatures or over an open flame, might serve as a public health intervention to reduce the risk of developing RCC. In addition, genetic testing might help to identify individuals at especially high risk.

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