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Does Grilling Cause Cancer?

It’s that time of year again.  Everyone is starting to get out their grills and having BBQs.  But is grilling safe for you?  Besides possible undercooked foods and charcoal fires, cancer societies have come out saying that grilling can be a cause of cancer.  But there are things you can do to help reduce the carcinogenic effects from grilling and still have your BBQ!

There are two types of carcinogens formed when grilling.  The first is Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which is found in the smoke created when fat drips from meat or fish.  The smoke then coats the food and it is ingested.  The second carcinogen develops when meats are cooked over high heat.  The high heat causes a reaction in the some the meats proteins which produces a carcinogen called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).  This happens especially in well done red meat.

So what can you do to prevent this?

1. Avoid burnt/well done meat- but make sure it is still cooked thoroughly

2. Grill only lean meats and trim all visible fat off the meat before cooking

3. Grill fish- fish are generally leaner than other cuts of meat so they don’t create as much of the carcinogen filled smoke and they cook faster so they are exposed to the carcinogens for less time

4. Partially cook food before grilling- Again, the food will be exposed to the carcinogens for less time

5. Oil your Grill- oil helps keep charred material on the grill from sticking to your food

6. Marinate your meat- Studies have shown that this helps to reduce the amount of HCAs formed