Men who have an appetite for well-done steaks may be significantly increasing their chances of developing prostate cancer, health experts warn.
A recent study at the University of California analysed the eating habits of 1,000 men, of whom 470 had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. The participants were asked about their consumption of red meat, along with how often they grilled and barbecued it.
Results showed that those who regularly ate well- or very-well-done steaks, burgers, liver and processed meats had twice the odds of developing aggressive prostate cancer than those who never ate meat or ate it cooked rare or medium.
Scientists believe that charred meat cooked at high temperatures produces a reaction that forms two chemicals - heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycycic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) - that encourage prostate cells to develop much quicker than normal. In animal studies, these chemicals have been shown to cause numerous types of cancer, including prostate cancer.
"Higher intake of any ground beef or processed meats were positively associated with aggressive prostate cancer, with ground beef showing the strongest association," said Dr John White from the study.
"This association primarily reflected intake of grilled or barbecued meat, with more well-done meat conferring a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer. In contrast, consumption of rare to medium cooked ground beef was not associated with aggressive prostate cancer. Higher intake of well-done grilled or barbecued red meat could increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer."
Further analysis pointed to overcooking at high temperatures as being at the root of the problem, linking the increase in risk of prostate cancer to the method of cooking.
However, a British Nutrition Foundation study claimed that the majority of adults ate "healthy amounts" of red meat and there was an "inconclusive" link to cancer.
Earlier this year, scientific advisers from the Department of Health said that red and processed meat "probably" increases the odds of developing bowel cancer.
They recommended eating no more than 70g per day. Over one week, this amounts to a total of three sausages, one small steak, one quarter-pounder and three slices of lamb.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among British men, with more than 37,000 men in the UK diagnosed with the condition every year.