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Eating Bacon & Skinless Chicken May Cause Bladder Cancer

A study published in the November, 2006 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that eating bacon and skinless chicken on a regular basis can significantly increase one's risk of developing bladder cancer.

Data on more than 130,000 people over the course of 22 years was examined by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. Their key findings were as follows:

  • People who ate bacon five or more times per week increased their risk of developing bladder cancer by 60 percent
  • People who ate skinless chicken fives time or more per week increased their risk of developing bladder cancer by 52 percent

Researchers suggest that high levels of nitrosamines in bacon, and high levels of heterocyclic amines in bacon and skinless chicken are the most likely reasons for the strong link between eating these foods and risk of developing bladder cancer.

Interestingly, cooked chicken with skin tends to contain lower levels of heterocyclic amines compared to skinless chicken. This is most likely why the data from this study shows a strong association between cooked skinless chicken and bladder cancer, rather than between cooked chicken with skin and bladder cancer.

What exactly are heterocyclic amines (HCAs)?

HCAs are a group of compounds that can form when flesh meats are cooked at high temperatures. The three cooking methods that are known to produce the greatest amounts of HCAs are those that involve the highest temperatures: deep-frying, barbecuing, and broiling.

Oven-roasting and baking flesh meats will not produce significant numbers of HCAs if high temperatuers are avoided. One published study indicates that the number of HCAs increases 300 percent when cooking temperature is raised from 200 to 250 degrees Celsius (392 to 482 degrees Farhenheit).

What is the problem with eating foods that have high levels of HCAs on a regular basis? Beyond the finding that doing so can increase your risk of developing bladder cancer, other studies have found that eating such foods can significantly raise your risk of developing stomach, breast, colo-rectal, and pancreatic cancers.

If you would like to include modest amounts of clean flesh meats in your diet, you should know that the healthiest cooking methods are steaming, boiling, stewing, and slow crock pot cooking. These methods use a temperature of around 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Farhenheit), and have been shown to produce very little if any HCAs in cooked flesh meats.

One final point regarding HCAs: they are highly concentrated in sauces and gravies that are made from flesh meat drippings. Regardless of what just about every chef on the Food Network has to say about the "good stuff" that they scrape off the bottom of their pans, it is best to avoid all sauces and gravies that are made from these drippings. Bam!


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