meat's link to colon cancer: a whopper or the real deal?

MYTH VS. REALITY

DON'T YOU HATE the pang of regret that comes with giving in to a craving for an artery-clogging burger?

Here's a reason to dispense with some of that greasy guilt: Researchers at the National Cancer Institute recently found that women who ate the equivalent of one large burger a day were no more likely to get colon cancer than those who ate less than an ounce of meat daily.

Andrew Flood, Ph.D., and his colleagues asked more than 45,000 women, most over age 50, how often they ate meat and then tracked them for an average of 8 1/2 years. Neither red meat nor processed types like deli ham or hot dogs increased colon-cancer risk. "There's not a large body of evidence about meat and colon cancer," Flood notes. "Most published studies have shown no significant link."

Still, the American Institute for Cancer Research recently declared meat and fat "probable" factors in colon-cancer risk. So who's right? It's not clear yet.

Maybe how you cook your burgers makes a difference. Lesley Butler, Ph.D., an assistant professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of California, Davis, recently found that people who ate well-done and panfried red meats were more likely to get colon cancer than those who ate baked, broiled, and less-done meats. The reason: Cooking meat longer and at higher temperatures boosts the formation of compounds that may cause cancer, Butler says. Marinating meat and flipping it often while cooking lessens that effect by cutting back on charring.

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By Eric Steinmehl

Edited by Adam Martin

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