Mutagens from cooking meat elevate risk of kidney cancer

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published November 10, 2015

Key Takeaways

Meat-rich diets and certain high-heat cooking methods—such as grilling and pan-frying—may increase intake of carcinogenic compounds and lead to a greater risk of developing renal cell carcinoma (RCC), according to a study published online November 9, 2015 in the journal Cancer.

Study researchers also discovered that individuals with specific genetic mutations are more susceptible to the harmful compounds created when cooking at high temperatures.

“We found elevated RCC risk associated with both meat intake and meat-cooking mutagens, suggesting independent effect of meat-cooking mutagens on RCC risk,” said senior author Xifeng Wu, MD, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, TX.

In this case-control study, Dr. Wu and colleagues included 659 patients with newly-diagnosed RCC along with 699 healthy controls to investigate the association between the intake of meat-cooking mutagens and RCC. Based on survey responses, the researchers estimated meat consumption and exposure to meat-cooking mutagens with the help of a National Cancer Institute database.

Results showed that RCC patients consumed more red and white meat compared with healthy individuals. Additionally, the researchers identified an increased risk of RCC with two mutagenic compounds—a 54% increased risk associated with 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo(4,5-b)pyridine (PhIP), and a nearly two-fold increased risk associated with 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f) quinoxaline (MeIQx).

This is the first study to identify an association between kidney cancer risk and dietary MeIQx, one of the most abundant carcinogenic compounds commonly created in grilling, barbecuing, and pan-frying meats at high temperatures, Dr. Wu said.

“Also, our study is the first to evaluate the impact of RCC susceptibility variants, identified via genome-wide association studies, on the association between intake of mutagenic compounds and RCC risk,” she added.

Individuals with variations in the ITPR2 gene were more vulnerable to the effects of consuming PhIP. Because this gene has already been associated with kidney cancer and obesity risk, the results suggest this association may be partially explained by exposure to meat-cooking mutagens.

Further research is needed to understand the biological mechanisms underlying these interactions, the authors noted.

The researchers did not make specific recommendations regarding meat intake or exposure to meat-cooking mutagens because, in this study, exposures and consumption were analyzed on a relative rather than absolute scale.

However, Dr. Wu said, “Our findings support reducing consumption of meat, especially meat cooked at high temperatures or over an open flame, as a public health intervention to reduce RCC risk and burden.”

When grilling or pan-frying meat, try to avoid charring it as much as possible, the researchers suggested.

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