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4 Expert Tips To Reduce Cancer Risk Involved With Grilling

You may have heard research and seen news stories about grilled foods raising your cancer risk.  While the link is still being investigated, researchers point to charred and well-done meat, fish and poultry as being the most dangerous. 

The high temperature cooking can cause two cancer-causing compounds to form and, according to Alice Bender, MS, RD, a dietician with the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), these substances may damage DNA in ways that make cancer more likely.   

“Diets that feature big portions of red and processed meat have been shown to make colorectal cancer more likely,” Bender said. “Evidence that grilling itself is a risk factor is less strong, but it only makes sense to take some easy cancer-protective precautions.”

She offers the following tips to make your grilling safer:


Cut back on the amount of red and processed meat you serve and add more fruits and vegetables.  Many fruits and vegetables develop a unique flavor when grilled. One of Cooking Light magazine’s best- rated grill recipes is for grilled corn on the cob with jalapeno butter.

If you want to try something out of the ordinary, Cooking Light also recommends marinated grilled apples with mint as a good side dish for pork or chicken dishes.


Bender suggests trying chicken or fish instead of burgers and hot dogs. She says marinating with vinegar or citrus may fight against the formation of some cancer causing compounds that form during grilling.

This recipe for grilled citrus tuna would fit the recommendations perfectly, especially if paired with a healthy fruit salsa.



Putting the meat on the stove or in the oven or microwave before grilling is another of Bender’s suggestions. Just make sure to put the partially cooked meat on the pre-heated grill immediately to complete cooking and avoid any food safety issues. 

This recipe for flavorful adobo chicken starts in a pot on the stove and finishes on the grill.


In order to reduce charring on your meat, cook with a low flame for a longer period of time.  Bender recommends cutting off visible fat before cooking and any especially charred pieces before serving.


AICR has set up a toll-free hotline to answer your questions about diet and reducing your risk for cancer.  Call AICR at 1-800-843-8114, M-F, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. An operator will take your question and your phone number.

An AICR registered dietitian will return your call generally within 3 business days. AICR also offers a quiz so you can evaluate how your own diet may impact your risk for cancer.

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Images via Cooking Light.

Topics: Healthy Living

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