A new University of Minnesota study says people who regularly eat meat that is burned or charred may increase their risk of pancreatic cancer by almost 60 percent.
Previous research by the same team found an association between the disease and cancer-causing compounds that form on the surface of red meat during high-heat cooking.
Study leader Kristin Anderson said this study adds to the weight of her earlier work. But she doesn't want people to be fearful of grilling or eating meat.
"The good news is this is a modifiable risk factor," Anderson said. "People can reduce their intake of these carcinogens by changing the way they cook their meat. We aren't saying they need to give it up."
Anderson said people can reduce their risk of consuming carcinogens by turning down the heat when they cook and by cutting away the parts of meat that are burned or charred. She said another good option is to cook meat in water or another liquid to prevent it from getting too hot.
"You can cook your meat over indirect heat, turn the temperature down, really avoid the contact with the flames, use foil or something else," Anderson said. "You can control it. Just turn that heat down a little bit. Be a little more patient."
The study has some limitations in that it couldn't control for the possibility that participants might have changed their diet over time. Anderson said that's often a weakness with studies that examine diet. She said that's why it's important that more studies be done that examined cooking techniques and cancer risk.