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Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Apr 13;57(6):1153-1173. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2014.967833.

The relationship of red meat with cancer: Effects of thermal processing and related physiological mechanisms.

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a Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland , Auckland , New Zealand.
b Department of Food Sciences , School of Chemistry Sciences, The University of Auckland , Auckland , New Zealand.


Red meat is consumed globally and plays an important role in the Western diet. Its consumption is however linked with various types of diseases. This review focuses on the relationship of red meat with cancer, its dependency on the thermal processing methodology and the subsequent physiological effects. The epidemiological evidence is discussed, followed by introduction of the species that were hypothesized to contribute to these carcinogenic effects including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic amines (HCAs), N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), heme iron, and macromolecular oxidation products. Their carcinogenic mechanisms were then addressed with further emphasis on the involvement of inflammation and oxidative stress. The thermal processing dependency of the carcinogen generation and the partially elucidated carcinogenic mechanism both represent doorways of opportunities available for the scientific manipulation of their impact after human consumption, to minimize the cancer risks associated with red meat.


N-nitroso compounds; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; carcinogenic; heme iron; heterocyclic amines; inflammation; oxidation products; oxidative stress

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