Can Grilling Cause Cancer?


bbq ribsIt is almost summertime and that means it is time to break out the grill and start having some cookouts! Before you break out the spatula and the charcoal, make sure that you are being safe with your grilling. Studies have shown that protein-rich foods such as burgers and chicken form heterocyclic amines (HCAs) when they are cooked at high temperatures. These HCAs have been shown to cause cancer.

A study was conducted and the results showed that a diet that was regularly filled with well-done meat, no matter how it was cooked, came with a 60% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. A diet that is high in HCAs has been shown to be linked with a higher risk of developing lung, liver, skin, breast, colon, prostate, and other types of cancers. The National Cancer Institute says that there are currently no guidelines for how much HCA is too much in a diet.

So what can you do to protect yourself from these amines while you are cooking your food? Choose a leaner cut of meat so that less fat drips from it and so it has a shorter cooking time. Reducing the amount of time the food is cooked at high heat is essential. For something like steak, precook on a low temperature in the oven first so that it can spend less time on the grill. Remove the skin from any chicken that you will be cooking. You can also lower the temperature of the grill itself. It will take longer to cook but the high heat is what causes the amines to come out, so if you cook at a lower heat your will have less amines. Marinating your meat has been shown to reduce carcinogenic formations. There are also spices such as red pepper and rosemary that you can throw on to help.

So while there is not enough evidence to say that you should never grill again, be smart about it and take caution while you are cooking. You will still have the great flavor but less of a risk of developing cancer.



  1. Jackie Berry on

    Just be SMART with ANY meat, if you still eat it…..cook all meat until it is DONE…just don't overcook it……

  2. Tanya Jefferson on

    Why would it be necessary for the “majority” og grilled meat be “well done”, slow cooked “Barbeque” & historic slow cooked “tougher cuts” yea but not necessarily all cuts or meats & many indigenous cultures who still cook primarily over open flame from what I understand have legendary low cancer rates

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