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Red meat linked to deadly prostate cancer risk

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By David Liu PHD

Tuesday July 24, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Eating red meat may increase risk of developing deadly prostate cancer, according to a new study published online July 20, 2012 in the journal Carcinogenesis. 

The study showed men who had highest intakes of red meat cooked at high temperature, cooked by pan-frying and cooked  until well done were more likely to develop advanced prostate cancer, compared to those who had lowest intakes.

On the other hand, the study also found an inverse association between eating baked poultry and advanced prostate cancer risk, meaning high intake of baked poultry was linked to lower risk of the disease.  

Does eating poultry reduce the risk or can you eat more poultry to reduce the risk?   It is hard to say.  Eating more  poultry could mean eating less red meat, both are not independent. So the association can be actually the same as the link between eating red meat and elevated risk for prostate cancer.

Red meat has previously been considered a potential risk factor for prostate cancer, but epidemiological evidence is inconclusive.  The authors say an association between meat intake and prostate cancer may be due to potent chemical carcinogens formed in meats during the high-temperature cooking process.

For the study, the researchers analysed data from 1096 controls and 717 men with localized prostate cancer, and 1140 men with advanced prostate cancer who enrolled in the California Collaborative Prostate Cancer Study.

The researchers also found a gene-by-diet interaction between a polymorphism in the PTGS2 gene and the estimated levels of meat mutagens.  The finding suggests the association is not merely a work of chance.  It indicates that it is more than likely that eating red meat cooked at high heat that induces the formation of carcinogens is responsible for the increase in the prostate cancer risk.

Cooking red meat at high temperature can generate carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines.  These cooing-induced toxic chemicals are recognized as carcinogens by the U.S. National Toxicology Program.

Prostate cancer is expected in about 241,740 men in the United States in 2012.  This disease is in most cases growing very slowly and rarely poses an life-threatening risk.  But advanced prostate cancer kills about 28,170 men in the country in the same year.

Prostate cancer is preventable in many cases.  Older men are likely to be urged to receive prostate cancer screening, which is based on the prostate specific antigen test or PSA test.  The test is not intended for screening the disease, according to the inventor because it does not accurately diagnose the disease. Rather, it is indicated for the monitoring of patients for the progression of the disease.  But doctors use the PSA test anyway and claim it helps some men.

Studies have shown that generally speaking, PSA test does not reduce prostate cancer related death risk in men.  And for men older than 70, this test is not worth taking and can do more harm than good because the test itself and its complications can be harmful. 

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