The prostate cancer risk and red meat saga (continued)

A new paper in the journal Carcinogenesis reports data that “support a role for carcinogens that accumulate in meats cooked at high temperatures as potential [prostate cancer] risk factors, and may support a role for heterocyclic amines in [prostate cancer] etiology.”

The primary finding of this study by Joshi et al. was their observation of “a positive association” between risk for advanced prostate cancer and high consumption of red meat cooked at high temperatures, cooked by pan-frying, and cooked until well-done. The study was based on a retrospective analysis of data collected as part of the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study and is also discussed in a news report from the Keck School of Medicine.

The authors do report, also, that eating significant amounts of pan-fried poultry was associated with increased risk, and that pan-frying, regardless of meat type, consistently seems to be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Previous research by this research team has found that fish cooked at high temperatures, particularly pan-fried, also increases the risk of prostate cancer.

Pan frying is something that people tend to do with things like hamburgers, hot dogs, some fish, some steaks, chicken breasts, etc. The authors suggest a number of possible reasons why pan-frying and other methods associated with cooking meat quickly by frying at very high temperatures may be associated with an increased risk for induction of prostate cancer, but it is difficult to see why these methods of cooking red meat (or any other meat) would be specifically associated with an elevated risk for prostate cancer as opposed to more obvious possible cancers of the digestive tract — like colon cancer or stomach cancer.

While The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink has long acknowledged that there are a lot of data suggesting a strong association between risk for prostate cancer and a diet high in meat in general and red meat in particular, that is all we really have at the present time — a strong association. It would be nice if we could move beyond this to actually develop a demonstrable reason for this strong association. For all we know at present, this strong association might actually be with something else that also correlates to a diet high in meat in general, red meat in particular, and pan-frying in particular (e.g., this could also be associated with a diet high in the fries and ketchup commonly eaten in association with many pan-fried meat meals).

What is clear from a dietary point of view is that any diet that is heavily based on one specific type of foodstuff is not (generally) the best idea in the world. “Variety is the spice of life” — and that certainly applied to diet just as much as it does to lifestyle. There is still lots of good evidence that a heart-healthy diet (and lifestyle) is generally a prostate-healthy diet (and lifestyle).

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