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Summer is coming to an end, so it’s time to stop enjoying all those barbecues, and
start worrying about cancer!
Hello extra crispy colonels, Trace here for DNews.
We all hate it when our food gets burnt.
I know I’ve flipped over more than one table at a fancy restaurant because my Brussels
sprouts weren't just overcooked -- but BURNT.
BURNT, Jessie.
I'm still bitter about it.
But as it turns out, my seemingly excessive displays of disgust are more reasonable than
it might seem.
Besides tasting and smelling absolutely awful, research has shown that burnt and overcooked
food might actually cause cancer.
Your Mom was right.
Sort of.
Although studies on dietary consumption of burnt food won't directly say “you will
get cancer if you eat that blackened wing”, the risk is still there.
See, in 2002 scientists at Stockholm University found that starchy foods, like French fries
or garlic bread, developed acrylamide after being heated to 120 degrees Celsius.
The chemical is produced by a reaction between asparagine, a non-essential amino acid, and
certain sugars like fructose.
This chemical was not found in unheated foods, or those that had been boiled and unable to
reach the necessary temperature.
So, it’s not only burnt foods, but pretty much all starchy foods exposed to high enough
heat, including well-done, fried, and baked.
Now, you might be inclined to think that getting cancer from burning food to a crisp would
work in the same way as getting cancer from smoking.
And you’re sort of right.
That’s because the cancer risk stems from the chemical acrylamide, and acrylamide is
also found in cigarette smoke.
So, pat yourselves on the back for being on the money.
In studies where acrylamide was given to lab rats in their drinking water, it caused tumors
in the lungs, thyroid, adrenal glands, and testicles.
[eesh] It also seemingly caused mutations in mouse sperm DNA that can then be passed
onto their offspring.
So not only does it give animals cancer, but it also hurts their babies.
In humans, the acrylamide irritates skin and is believed to be a tumor initiator, but the
link to cancer isn't as hard and fast.
In studies where it actually caused cancer in rats and mice, those animals were being
fed doses roughly 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than what could possibly be found in a burnt
batch of French fries or a crispy burger.
Nonetheless, acrylamide is classified as a Group 2A carcinogen by the International Agency
for Research on Cancer, meaning it probably causes cancer in humans, but not conclusively.
In 2010, Harvard researchers found an increased risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer in
women who didn't smoke, but did eat foods with lots of acrylamide.
And, a meta-analysis from 2015 found that dietary acrylamide might be related to kidney
Still, and again, there is no conclusive evidence that acrylamide is responsible for any of
the most common cancers, like breast cancer.
So, since there’s no direct proof, you can just limit your intake of well-cooked foods
and you’ll be fine right?
See, cooked and burnt foods can still give you cancer even if you don’t eat them!
Not really.
But kinda!
When you cook food over an open flame, especially muscle meats like beef, pork, fish, or poultry,
the drippy-byproducts fall into the fire, producing two types of chemicals: polycyclic
aromatic hydrocarbons -- PAHs -- and heterocyclic amines.
As you cook, those two chemical groups both become airborne, or volatile, and are also
considered “mutagenic”, which is not a word you want associated with standing near
an open barbeque pit.
A mutagen is something that causes changes in your DNA, and it can lead to an increased
risk of cancer.
PAHs have been correlated with skin, lung, bladder, liver, and stomach cancer in animal
And prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers have been associated with eating burnt, or
nearly burnt meats, which The National Cancer Institute ties to these chemical groups.
Now look, this all sounds pretty scary.
But remember, the studies are just pointing out these chemicals exist in the world, and
cause cancers sometimes.
They're relatively inconclusive.
Although there is some correlation between eating well-cooked meat, or starchy foods
cooked at high temperatures and certain types of cancers, it is nowhere near as clear as
the link between, say, cigarettes and lung cancer, or sun exposure and skin cancer.
You can be guaranteed research is still ongoing in this area.
Just moderate your intake of these risky foods, and you should be okay.
Plus, less mammal meat is better for you and the environment anyway -- just don't grill
your veggies...
Cancer-free quinoa, here I come!
It's not just grilled foods and starches, there is another indication that everyone's
favorite belly meat -- BACON.
YES BACON -- might be killing you.
In fact, processed meats in general were named cancer-causers… but what IS a processed
I looked into it last year, and it was fascinating!
Check it out.
What do you think is the best way to cook meat?
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Can Burnt Food Really Give You Cancer?

309 Folder Collection
Amy.Lin published on September 29, 2016
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