If you eat meat frequently—especially if it’s well done or cooked at high temperatures—you may have a higher risk of developing bladder cancer. 

“It’s well known that meat cooked at high temperatures generates heterocyclic amines,” compounds that can cause cancer, says Jie Lin, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Individuals who ate the most red meat had almost a 150% higher risk of developing bladder cancer. Specifically, consumption of beef steaks, pork chops and bacon raised bladder cancer risk significantly. Even chicken and fish, when fried, significantly raised the odds of developing cancer. 

Level of Doneness, Genetics 

Meat’s level of doneness had a marked impact on cancer risk. Study participants whose diets included well-done meats were almost twice as likely to develop bladder cancer. 

Some participants were also genetically predisposed to bladder cancer, Dr. Lin and her colleagues found. 

“Cancer is caused by multiple risk factors—environmental exposure, diet and genetic background—and their interactions,” she says. “The current results highlight the importance of studying gene-diet interactions in cancer risk assessment and have valuable implications in bladder cancer prevention.” 

According to the American Cancer Society, almost 71,000 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed in the United States last year; 14,000 Americans died of the disease. Men have a much higher risk. 

“Reducing red meat consumption and/or avoiding eating meats cooked at very high temperature—like those pan-fried, grilled or barbecued—may reduce one’s risk for developing bladder cancer,” concludes Dr. Lin, who presented her study at the American Association for Cancer Research’s 2010 annual meeting. 

For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Compassionate Carnivore: Or, How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald’s Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat