Rethinking the Very Well-Done Steak
William G. Nelson.
Scientist William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., was among the first to discover that eating a lot of fried or otherwise charred meat — particularly red meat — can lead to prostate cancer. Over the last few years, he’s been learning more about why this happens, and his work dovetails beautifully with that of Angelo De Marzo, Elizabeth Platz, and other Brady scientists who are investigating the roles of PIA (proliferative inflammatory atrophy, a precursor to cancer — see story) and inflammation in causing prostate cancer. “The overcooking of meats is now well known to trigger the formation of cancercausing substances,” says Nelson. One of these, called PhIP, causes prostate cancer in rats that eat it. Just as burning wood causes ashes to form, charring meat causes PhIP to form; when you eat meat that’s too welldone, you eat PhIP, too.
PhIP causes prostate cancer in rats
that eat it. Just as burning wood
causes ashes to form, charring
meat causes PhIP to form; when
you eat meat that’s too well-done,
you eat PhIP, too.
“Over the past year, our new findings have suggested that PhIP consumption may lead to prostate cancer in rats by first causing mutations, and then causing an inflammatory reaction. We suspect that the inflammatory reaction is what drives the mutated cells to become cancerous.” In prostate tissue samples studied under the microscope, this mutation and the added stress of inflammation lead to PIA. Inflammation is the critical factor, and it isn’t just caused by food; it can have many causes, including some infections, and other dietary carcinogens. “The implications of this are really exciting — that anti-inflammatory agents may help prevent prostate cancer.” The work of Nelson and colleagues was recently published in Cancer Research, and in the Nature Review of Cancer.