FRIDAY, Sept. 7, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Pan-frying red meat may increase men's risk for prostate cancer by up to 40 percent, according to a new study.
Scientists explained that when red meat is cooked at high temperatures, cancer-causing chemicals are formed, possibly increasing disease risk.
Researchers from the University of Southern California and the Cancer Prevention Institute of California examined data on nearly 2,000 men involved in a study on prostate cancer. More than half of the men were diagnosed with advanced forms of the disease.
Participants completed detailed questionnaires about what types of meat and poultry they ate and how much. The men were asked about their cooking methods and whether they pan-fried, broiled or grilled their meats. They also were shown pictures of foods at various levels of preparation, so they could indicate how well done they typically ate their meats.
"We found that men who ate more than 1.5 servings of pan-fried red meat per week increased their risk of advanced prostate cancer by 30 percent," study leader Mariana Stern, associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC, said in a university news release. "In addition, men who ate more than 2.5 servings of red meat cooked at high temperatures were 40 percent more likely to have advanced prostate cancer."
Hamburgers, in particular, were linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, the study found. The risk was greatest among Hispanic men.
"We speculate that these findings are a result of different levels of carcinogen accumulation found in hamburgers, given that they can attain higher internal and external temperatures faster than steak," Stern said.
Although men who ate mostly baked poultry had a lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, those who ate pan-fried poultry had a greater risk for the disease. The researchers concluded that diets rich in pan-fried meat or poultry of any kind may increase men's risk for prostate cancer.
Although the reason pan-frying may lead to a greater risk for prostate cancer is unclear, the researchers suggested the formation of DNA-damaging carcinogens -- known as heterocyclic amines -- during the cooking process may be to blame.
These cancer-causing chemicals are formed when sugars and amino acids are cooked at higher temperatures for longer periods of time, they explained.
"The observations from this study alone are not enough to make any health recommendations, but given the few modifiable risk factors known for prostate cancer, the understanding of dietary factors and cooking methods are of high public-health relevance," Stern said.
The study appeared recently online in the journal Carcinogenesis.
Although the study found an association between pan-fried meat and prostate cancer risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has information on prostate cancer.