A New Study Linking Meat and Cancer Is Somehow Even More Alarming Than the Last One

Red alert!
Red alert! Photo: Lisa VanDyke/RooM the Agency/Corbis

Remember two weeks ago when the World Health Organization said bacon causes bowel cancer and red meat “probably” does? That was a pretty bad day. Well, science is really on a roll lately, because now there’s news that doctors at the University of Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center have tied all meat to another type of cancer, of the kidney this time.

This team wanted to investigate the possible link between meat in people’s diets and the disease, so they compared 659 patients with kidney cancer to 699 people with no cancer. They asked everybody what kinds of meat they ate and how they cooked it, then got genetic makeups to look for any biological ties. Their conclusion, published in the journal Cancer: Eating meat carries a higher risk of kidney cancer, and people who grill it first — red or white, so T-bones, turkey legs, chicken breasts, it doesn’t matter — have the greatest risk of all. To make things worse still, they also say two genetic mutations in particular were “significantly associated” with kidney cancer (although, sorry — neither NBC News nor the study’s abstract mentions what those are).

The study’s findings fit the WHO’s ruling on red meat, but cancer experts have long argued grilling or barbecuing is, from a health standpoint, sort of akin to subjecting your meat to cigarette smoke. These researchers say so-called “exposure to meat cooking mutagens” is the best explanation for why the rate of kidney cancer is on the rise. But it’s still a solid six months until next grilling season, so just imagine how good the veggie-burger game will be by then.


Eating Grilled Meat May Cause Cancer