Taming the flame for Memorial Day weekend

Each year University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center dietitians field questions from patients about whether it’s safe to grill, given the evidence that grilled meats may contain cancer-causing agents. But new guidelines from the American Institute for Cancer Research suggest that the type of food you grill may be more important than how you prepare it.

Hot dogs and hamburgers — the all-American summer standards — may be among the worst culprits in causing colorectal cancer. Research has shown a convincing link between diets high in processed meat and red meat — which includes beef, pork and lamb. Every 3.5 ounces of processed meat — about two hot dogs — increases the risk for colorectal cancer by 42 percent.

Given the data, we recommend that our patients follow AICR guidelines. Limit the amount of red meat you eat. Think of it as an occasional indulgence. Make processed meats including hot dogs a treat for a special occasion — like an annual outing at the ballpark. Use these guidelines year round to lower your risk.

And this summer, continue to use caution when grilling. All animal meats produce cancer-causing chemicals when they are seared at high temperatures-whether on a grill or on a conventional stove. It’s still unclear whether eating these chemicals will increase your cancer risk. But while researchers continue to learn more about whether there’s a link between grilling and cancer, you can protect yourself and still enjoy a backyard barbecue. Read on to learn strategies to limit your exposure. Continue reading