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Current Research

Breast Cancer and 'PHIP'



In the 1990s two international studies found an association between breast cancer and intake of fried meat and broiled meat in Finland and Uruguay. In 2000 researchers in Iowa identified the probable culprit, a heterocyclic amine abbreviated PHIP (2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazol4,5-blpyridine). Heterocyclic amines are a class of ubiquitous mutagens found in cooked meats, poultry, fish and cigarette smoke. The effect was confirmed on Long Island and was extended to grilled, barbecued and smoked meat. But why more breast cancer risk? These cooked meat carcinogens are mutagenic, meaning that they damaged DNA. In fact, you can directly correlate the number of DNA mutations in human breast tissue with estimates of dietary intake. They asked women undergoing breast reduction surgery about their meat cooking methods and found that the intake of processed, fried, and stirfried meat were correlated with the number of DNA mutations they found subsequently in their breast tissue. But, we already knew that these chemicals damaged DNA; what surprised everyone was that not only may these meat chemicals trigger the original cancer causing mutations; they may then promote the growth of the ensuing tumor as PHIP was discovered to be a potent estrogen. They dripped the kinds of levels of PHIP you would expect in your body after eating cooked meat and found that it activated estrogen receptors almost as powerfully as straight estrogen. The genetic toxicity of the compound coupled with its ability to enhance cell proliferation and invasion indicates that PHIP can act not only to initiate the carcinogenic process, but also to promote it.



The problem is, researchers say, that exposure to PHIP is difficult to avoid because of its presence in many commonly consumed cooked meats, particularly chicken, beef and fish.



The cooked meat carcinogens implicated in promoting the initiation, growth, and spread of breast cancer may also increase the risk of prostate cancer. The mechanism through which the ingestion of well-done meat can increase prostate cancer risk is via the release of mutagenic compounds during cooking. The heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) are chemicals formed when the muscles of mammals, fish, or birds are cooked by high temperature methods such as pan frying or barbecuing.



In the Journal of Food Chemistry we just found out that in chicken the temperature does not have to be that high, just baking baking at a temperature of about 350 for 15 min. leads to significant production of HCA's including PHIP. These cooked meat carcinogens have also been associated with increased risk of kidney cancer, colon cancer lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. These are all 2011 or 2012 research studies including those in the Journal ofMolecular Carcinogenesis. wz

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© William Zahler