When you bite into that hamburger, is your risk of prostate cancer going up? What about grilled and barbecued meat? Find out what new research shows about red meat and prostate cancer risk.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men. It’s estimated that up to sixteen percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime – a frightening prospect. Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes that can help to reduce the risk of this common cancer – one of which is diet. Some studies have shown that eating a low fat diet, a vegetable rich diet, and a diet high in lycopenes (found in processed tomatoes) can reduce prostate cancer risk – although the most recent studies have shown inconsistent results with lycopene. What about meat consumption? A new study shows that men who eat large quantities of red meat may be at higher risk of prostate cancer.
In this study published in the Journal of Epidemiology, researchers looked at the dietary habits of 175,313 middle-aged men and followed them for nine years. They found that men who ate diets high in red meat and processed meats were more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than those who ate little meat. Eating barbecued meat and grilled meat also appeared to increase the risk of prostate cancer in these men. All in all, eating red meat raised the risk by around twelve percent. Not good news if you’re a carnivorous male.
Is Red Meat Really So Bad?
Why is red meat and processed meat associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer? Processed meat has nitrates added as preservatives and to give eye appealing color. Ever notice how pink hot dogs look in their package? That’s due to the colorful nitrates. Nitrates are converted into nitrosamines once they get into the digestive tract which are known carcinogens.
Why is grilling meat so bad? Grilling and barbecuing meat causes production of heterocyclic amines – compounds that have been associated with cancer. Charbroiled and barbecued meat contains benzo(a)pyrene which can cause DNA mutations that can increase the risk of prostate cancer as well as other cancers. Another possible reason? Many red meats are also high in fat and some studies have shown a high fat diet increases the risk of prostate cancer.
How to Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Although red meat is high in protein and a good source of iron, there are healthier protein sources if you want to reduce prostate cancer risk. Rediscover white meat such as lean chicken and turkey and alternate with vegetarian sources of protein such as seitan, wheat protein, and soy protein. Some studies show that soy protein may lower the risk of prostate cancer in men. When eating red meat, avoid grilling or barbecuing it and stay away from processed meats that contain preservatives such as nitrates. Don’t forget about yearly prostate checks if you’re a male over the age of forty. It could save your life.