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Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood on May 01, 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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Fireworks aren't the only thing that'll be sizzling and popping this Holiday weekend.

It's also a time for that all-American summer tradition, grilling. But while you're grilling make sure your health isn't fizzling.

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

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.

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.

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…

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.

Geeeez…is there anything we can do that won't kill us?

There are several ways to decrease the risk:

don't cook it at such high temperatures…

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…

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

You can help get around that by putting a piece of aluminum foil on the grill. Poke holes in it so that the fat drains off.

However, the smoke that comes back up can not come in contact with the meat.

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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