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SC hospital provides cancer prevention info for frequent grillers

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 9:20 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 12:21 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A South Carolina Healthcare provider says people who frequently grill food at high temperatures may be at higher risk for developing certain cancers.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare has released a statement warning of the potential health risks associated with outdoor grilling. Roper’s Dr. Valerie Scott says it is the perfect time to talk about what meats we’re grilling and how we’re grilling them.

Scott says not only are traditional cookout foods such as hamburgers and hot dogs not heart healthy, but cooking meats at high temperatures causes them to produce cancer-causing chemicals.

The two carcinogenic chemicals that have been identified are heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, the release stated. Scott says these two chemicals are formed when muscle meat is exposed to high temperatures or smoke.

Beef was singled out by Scott as having the greatest potential to form heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons when cooked over high heat. “Both of these are carcinogens and we know over time if you eat a lot of grilled meats, you have a higher instance of cancer,” Scott says.

When people increase the temperature from 390 degrees to 482 degrees, Scott says they increase the production of these carcinogens three-fold.

Scott supplemented her carcinogen warning by recalling how diets heavy with red or processed meat also put people at an increased risk of colorectal cancers. She says this is regardless of the way those foods are cooked.

Scott recommended that people choose to grill other foods such as fish, chicken and vegetables. She said those who “must cook red meat” should “marinate it first with oils and seasonings.” This will reduce the formation of the carcinogenic heterocyclic amines by up to 96 percent.

Precooking meat in the oven or the microwave was also recommended by Scott to reduce the formation of the also carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Scott says the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are deposited onto the meat by smoke, so the shorter time they are exposed, the less smoky flavor and the less carcinogens.

Finally Scott recommended placing aluminum foil on the grill to help decrease the formation of carcinogens and limiting smoke exposure. She says cleaning the grill and removing the old char also will help.

Scott reiterated in closing to keep the heat as low as possible.

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