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expert reaction to a study on meat consumption, cooking methods, and kidney cancer

Researchers studying meat and a type of kidney cancer have published their work in the journal Cancer, which reports that meat consumption may increase the risk of renal cell carcinoma through compounds produced during cooking.


Dr Ian Johnson, nutrition researcher and Emeritus Fellow, Institute of Food Research, said:

“Renal cell carcinoma occurs more frequently in higher income countries than in less developed parts of the world, and so it seems probable that it is caused in part by a western lifestyle. Obesity is one risk factor, but some recent studies have also implicated high levels of meat consumption. This new report is consistent with that hypothesis. However, as with most cancers, it seems likely that an individual’s risk of developing renal cell carcinoma is shaped by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The new results implicate variations in genes involved in the ability of the body to process mutagenic chemicals formed by cooking meat at high temperatures. The work is certainly interesting and the findings are plausible but this is a single relatively small study, and the authors themselves stress the need for further research. In the meantime, it is prudent to stay within Department of Health guidelines for red and processed meat consumption, but renal cell carcinoma is a relatively uncommon cancer in the UK and so any extra risk due to eating meat will be quite small overall.”


Gene-Environment Interaction of Genome-Wide Association Study-Identified Susceptibility Loci and Meat-Cooking Mutagens in the Etiology of Renal Cell Carcinoma’ by Melkonian et al. published in Cancer on Monday 9th November. 


Declared interests

Dr Ian Johnson: No conflicts of interest

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