Can Grilling Meat Contribute to Breast Cancer?

You can still tuck into a good burger from time to time. Just keep moderation in mind.

Medically reviewed in September 2021

If you enjoyed your last weekend barbecue so much that you’re thinking, “Why not fire up the grill every night?” consider this:

Women who consumed the most grilled or barbecued meat over their lifetimes had a 50 percent higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer than those who consumed the least, according to a 2007 study published in the journal Epidemiology.

Beware of the barbecue
It seems that high-heat cooking—such as grilling—creates carcinogens that may harm breast tissue. Meat is particularly problematic because when the fat drips onto coals, it generates dangerous compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These can go airborne and land on your burger, steak, or fillet. When PAHs get eaten and enter your system, they may harm cells.

A lifetime of risk
Going to a backyard barbecue? Don't stress. Eating grilled meat occasionally probably isn't cause for concern. But you’ll want to avoid making it a daily habit.

Meanwhile, try to pack your diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and take more steps toward a cancer-free future with these tips:

  • Take it easy on alcohol. Overdoing it increases the risk of several cancers.
  • Get moving to get healthier. Exercise can help fend off breast, colon, and kidney cancer.

Sources:

SE Steck, MM Gaudet, et al. “Cooked Meat and Risk of Breast Cancer—Lifetime Versus Recent Dietary Intake.” Epidemiology. May 2007. Volume 18 - Issue 3 - p 373-382.
BreastCancer.org. “Exposure to Chemicals When Food Is Grilled/Prepared.” September 11, 2020. Accessed April 23, 2021.

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