Make Your Barbecue Cancer Free

It’s Spring and with the warming weather comes a change in the air: the smell of smoke from winter fireplaces gives way to the inviting aromas of backyard barbecues. Few things bring to mind the joys of summer better than a burger or steak sizzling on a hot outdoor grill.
Of course, I would never dream of anything so “un-American” as even suggesting that anyone limit their enjoyment of outdoor cooking on a grill. But ruining a prime piece of meat is not the only thing you need to worry about when you are cooking at high temperature. There are some hidden dangers to your family’s health dancing in those flames. Cooked the wrong way, that steak, burger or chicken could increase their risk of cancer, heart disease and other health complications. Fortunately, a few simple steps can allow you to still turn out a grilled masterpiece that is both healthy and delicious.
The problems arise from two sources: the interaction of heat and meat and the burn products of the charcoal or gas. With the right techniques both of these dangers can be minimized.
Cooking any animal protein (including beef, chicken, pork, lamb, fish or whatever critter you choose to grill) at a high temperature causes the amino acids to react with creatine, a component of muscle, to form a group of cancer-causing chemicals known as Heterocyclic Amines (HCA). These compounds form just about any time meat is cooked at a temperature above 300 degrees F. The higher the cooking temperature and the longer the meat is cooked, the more HCA is formed. One gram of rare steak may have as little as 2.5 nanograms of HCA. Cook that same steak to well done and it will have 10 times more HCA (30 ng).
Chicken is even worse. A blackened grilled chicken breast may have as much as 480 ng of HCA, nearly 200 times as much as a steak, at least in the well done portion of the meat.
HCA’s have been linked to increased cancer risk. A 2002 study found a 70% increase in colon cancer risk in people who ate an average of 2 ounces of well-done meat a day. Another study in 1998 looked at 42,000 women in Iowa and found that those who liked their steaks, hamburgers and bacon very well-done were 4.62 times as likely to get breast cancer compared to women who liked their meat medium or rare. However, other studies have not found an increase in cancer related to over-cooked meats.
There may also be health risks related to the products of combustion from your grill. Incompletely burned wood or charcoal produces another class of chemicals known as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). These compounds are present in cigarette smoke and air pollution but the greatest level of exposure is usually from food. PAH’s form in the smoke from charcoal and when fat dripping onto grill causes flames to flare up