Cooking in high temperatures and genetic mutations drive higher risk of kidney cancer from meat

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Barbequed meat
Skewers of barbequed meat cook on the grill at the Historic Centre (Pelourinho) in Salvador July 2, 2014. In a project called "On The Sidelines" Reuters photographers share pictures showing their own quirky and creative view of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Reuters/Sergio Moraes

People taking diets high in meat should consider consuming it in moderation as it has been found that eating meat cooked in high temperatures could lead to higher risk of developing kidney cancer. Scientists also found that some people may be at higher risk due to genetic mutations that make them more vulnerable to dietary problems in meat.

A new study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre shows that barbecues and pan-fried meats may increase the risk of developing the most common kidney cancer, known as renal cell carcinoma, or RCC. Meats cooked in high temperatures, or over an open flame, were found to have harmful compounds that affect the kidneys.

According to Cancer Council Australia, RCC accounts for about 90 percent of all cancer cases across the world. In Australia, kidney cancer is considered to be the sixth most common cancer in men, while eleventh most common cancer in women.

Cooking in such ways allow the formation of cancer-causing substances, called carcinogens, in meats. These substances include 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo(4,5-b) pyridine, or PhIP, and amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo(4,5-f) quinoxaline, or MeIQx.

In the study, published in the journal CANCER, researchers analysed the eating patterns and genetic information from 659 patients who were newly diagnosed with RCC and from 699 other healthy subjects. They also measured the participants’ exposure to meat-cooking mutagens and meat consumption.

The findings show that the elevated risk of RCC is associated with both meat intake and meat-cooking mutagens. However, meat-cooking mutagens have an independent effect on RCC risk, according to senior author Xifeng Wu, a professor of Epidemiology.

The analysis also shows that most kidney cancer patients in the study consumed more red and white meat than healthy individuals. The study was guided by a National Cancer Institute database.

Researchers also discovered that some people who take diets high in meat may have higher risk of RCC due to specific genetic mutations. These at-risk individuals are more vulnerable to harmful compounds produced by cooking at high temperatures compared to other consumers.

Researchers said that the study is the first to identify the link between genetic risk factors and intake of meat-cooking mutagens to develop RCC.

"By analysing genes known to be associated with RCC risk, we found that high intake of these carcinogens may be particularly meaningful for a certain subgroup of the population," said Stephanie Melkonian, lead author of the study.

They have found that variations in the gene, called ITPR2, promote the higher risk for the kidney cancer. Earlier study shows that ITPR2 is linked with kidney cancer and obesity, and the new findings suggest this link could be influenced by the exposure to meat-cooking mutagens.

However, researchers noted that further studies are needed to fully determine the mechanisms that link mutagen intake and genetic risk factors. But the findings suggest that reducing consumption of meat could be a public health intervention to help reduce RCC risk and burden, Wu said.

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