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    Reviewed by Kathleen Zelman on February 14, 2012


    National Cancer Institute Web site: "Heterocyclic Amines in Cooked Meats." National Institutes of Health Web site.

    © 2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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    Narrator: We all need a 'break' now and then…One of the most favored ways is that old American tradition of throwing a barbeque. Ah, the aroma of sizzling meat… But while you are grilling make sure your health isn't sizzling.

    Michael Smith, MD: The problem is when you cook meat, particularly at high temperatures, then it can create chemicals that actually do increase the risk of cancer.

    Narrator: Meat that's been charred or cooked at high temperatures has been linked to stomach, colon and breast cancers in animal studies and medical professional think it's likely that humans face the same risks. The culprit: compounds called "heterocyclic amines" or HCAs created when proteins get too hot. 

    Michael Smith, MD: If you see the black char on the meat, chicken of beef or whatever meat it is, you should avoid eating that because that's definitely has higher amounts of those chemicals.

    Narrator: Keep in mind that your oven or cooking range can get just as hot as a grill if you're not careful. In addition to heat you also have to be mindful of smoke…

    Michael Smith, MD: There are other chemicals that are formed from fat that drops off the meat onto the charcoal — the coals — the smoke that comes up from that also has cancer causing chemicals.

    Narrator: Jeeez…Is there anything we can do that won't kill us?

    Michael Smith, MD: There are several ways to decrease the risk: Don't cook it at such high temperature; You can also pre-cook your meat in the microwave -  a clear liquid runs off, and that actually contains a lot of these chemicals and then finish cooking it on the grill…

    Narrator: Okay I feel a little better about grilling but you're still smoking your meat over an open flame.

    Michael Smith, MD: You can help getting around that by putting a piece on aluminum foil on the grill, poke holes in that so the fat drains off, however the smoke that comes back up and can not come in contact with the meat.

    Narrator: One way to make grilling both safe and fun is by adding a little color to your repertoire by including veggie kabobs. Not only are they high in fiber and low in fat, they produce very few HCA's AND contain cancer-fighting agents — a nice complement to your meal and your health. For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.

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