High consumption of red meat and/or fried meats such as chicken or fish increase the risk of bladder cancer, especially among individuals who already carry a genetic risk, according to the results of a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research on April 20, 2010 in Washington, D.C.[1]

Bladder cancer is diagnosed in as many as 60,000 individuals annually in the United States. It is much more common in elderly individuals. Bladder cancer has high cure rates if detected and treated early; however, these cure rates fall dramatically once the cancer has spread to different sites in the body. As with all types of cancer, the best “treatment” of bladder cancer is to prevent its occurrence in the first place. Thus, researchers continue to evaluate potential risk factors for the disease.

High-temperature cooking methods—such as grilling, charring, frying, and barbecuing—have been found to generate heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which are carcinogenic compounds that increase cancer risk. Researchers from the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center conducted a study that included 884 patients with bladder cancer and 878 control subjects. After collecting dietary data from all subjects, the researchers found that individuals who reported eating a lot of beef, pork, bacon, fried chicken, and fried fish had a higher risk of developing bladder cancer. Red meats cooked at the medium level conferred 1.46 times the level of those cooked rare, while meats cooked to well-done levels conferred 1.94 times the risk.

The researchers also observed a “joint effect” when individuals with certain genetic variants in the pathways related to HCA metabolism consumed high quantities of red meat. Individuals who have these genetic variations are 4.74 times as likely to develop bladder cancer when they eat a lot of red meat.

The researchers concluded that red meat intake increases the risk of bladder cancer, especially when combined with other factors such as high-temperature cooking or genetic predisposition.


[1] Lin J, Wang J, Grossman HB, et al. Red meat and heterocyclic amine intake, metabolic pathway genes, and bladder cancer risk. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, April 17-21, 2001. Washington, D.C. Abstract #2825.