Though flame-cooked meats may be delicacy to some, new research suggests that heavily cooked and charred meats are strongly linked to pancreatic cancer risk. The study, presented at the 100th annual meeting of the American Society for Cancer Research, followed over 62,000 people and correlated their frequency of eating well-done meats to their likelihood of developing the often-fatal cancer.

Kristin Anderson and her team at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health used data from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Multi-center Screening Trial to collect information about individuals and their eating habits. The surveys included information about how much meat each participant ate on average, along with his or her typical cooking method and preferred level of "doneness." Participants were divided up into five groups, depending on how charred they typically preferred their meat to be.

There were 208 cases of pancreatic cancer over a period of nine years. People in the upper two groups of "doneness" were much more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than others. Those in the group who ate the most charred meat were 70% more likely to develop the cancer as people in the lowest group.

Heterocyclic amines, carcinogens present in overcooked meat, may be the culprit, though more research is needed to determine the exact relationship between the compounds and pancreatic cancer. Another study presented at the conference did not find a connection between heavily cooked meat and colon cancer.

"We cannot say with absolute certainty that the risk is increased due to carcinogens formed in burned meat," said Anderson. "However, those who enjoy either fried or barbecued meat should consider turning down the heat or cutting off burned portions when it's finished; cook meat sufficiently to kill bacteria without excess charring. In addition, the precursors of cancer-causing compounds can be reduced by microwaving the meat for a few minutes and pouring off the juices before cooking it on the grill."