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Studies link cancer, grilling over high heat

Posted at 2:38 PM, May 27, 2013
and last updated 2015-05-22 11:05:47-04

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer and, for many, the first time to get the grill sizzling, but recent studies about cancer risk are giving some pause.

The searing or burning of the outside of the meat could be problematic.

The high heat inside a grill, 350 degrees or higher, creates heterocyclic amins, also known as HCAs, that studies have shown is linked to cancer.

The risk can be mitigated by using marinade or spice rub on the meat, which experts said could reduce the formation of HCAs by up to 90 percent.

Grillers can also cut the risk by turning down the heat, keeping the cooking temperature at a moderate level.

Pre-cooking meat in a microwave oven and finishing it on a grill cuts down on the time the meat is exposed to high heat, preventing the formation of HCAs.

Choosing a leaner cut of meat and trimming off charred parts before serving can also reduce HCAs.

Harvey Kirkland, who cooks for about 35 people who gather each year on Memorial Day, said he's not overly concerned.

"I feel like it's not a whole lot to worry about, you know," he said.

There isn't as much to be concerned about for grillers who cook slow and low.

"We make sure that the coals burn for a while and then actually put the meat on later," said Pat Thomas.

The science is not absolute. Lab animals fed HCAs developed cancer, but the National Cancer Institute said research involving humans is less clear.

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