A paper published in this month's issue of the journal Cancer finds that people who have diets high in meat may be at increased risk of developing kidney cancer. The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health as well as other grantees, involved collecting survey information about eating patterns and genetic data from 659 patients at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center who were newly diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and 699 healthy patients.
Here are five key points from the research:
1. Individuals with kidney cancer consumed more red and white meat compared to those in the healthy control group.
2. The researchers theorize that the carcinogenic effect may come from the ingestion of meat-cooking mutagens that are created when meat is cooked at high temperatures or over an open flame — which includes barbecuing or pan-frying. Previous work has shown that these techniques result in the formation of two carcinogens: 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo(4,5-b) pyridine (PhIP) and amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f) quinoxaline (MeIQx). The study shows a 54 percent increased risk associated with PhIP intake and a nearly 200 percent increase with MeIQx intake.
3. Your genetics may make you more or less susceptible to the effects. Researchers found that patients with variations in the gene, ITPR2, which has previously been associated with kidney cancer, may be more vulnerable to ill effects to these mutagens.
4. The researchers aren't suggesting that you should stop eating meat. They echoed recommendations from the American Cancer Society that people consume meats in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
5. They did have specific recommendations about grilling or pan-fry meat, however: As much as possible, try to avoid charring it .
The cancer study appears to support the controversial findings of a WHO decision to declare processed meat a carcinogen and red meat "probably" one in October. One of the most aggressive stances against meat taken by a major health organization, the announcement prompted an outcry from bacon lovers and other fans of meat who vowed to continue to eat as they did in the past. According to market research firm NPD Group, they made good on that promise so far, with consumption of processed and red meats and other animal proteins remaining about the same in the week following the decision.
This post has been updated.
For more health news, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here.