Pick This Protein to Cut Throat Cancer Risk

Medically reviewed in March 2021

White meat, or red? Your preference could help push your risk of throat cancer a bit lower.

Case in point: In a study, people who ate the most red meat were 80 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer compared with the people who preferred "white" -- defined by the study researchers as poultry and fish.

Seeing Red
There's plenty of research already pointing to the fact that red meat may increase the risk of colon cancer. So it's probably not too surprising that this protein source may increase the risk of cancer farther up the gastrointestinal tract as well. Researchers suspect that harmful compounds in red meat, such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and heme iron, may make the esophagus -- that muscular little tube that passes food down to your stomach -- more vulnerable to cancer-causing DNA changes.

A Better Choice
Red meat – or, more specifically, the by-products produced when it's cooked -- may be bad news for stomachs as well. In the same study, researchers noted an increased risk of gastric cancer in people exposed to high levels of HCAs, the compounds produced when meat is exposed to high temperatures. But turkey, chicken, and fish had no association with throat or stomach cancer in the study.

Can hot tea hurt your throat? Find out what you should do to ensure tea-drinking safety.

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