Higher meat consumption and genetic factors linked to increased risk of kidney cancer

Consuming high levels of red and white meat was linked to an increased risk of kidney cancer, especially when cooked at high temperatures and among individuals with certain genetic variants, according to research published in the journal CANCER. Analyzing 659 kidney cancer patients and 699 healthy subjects, researchers found an increased risk of cancer with both higher meat intake and two carcinogens produced when cooking meat at high temperatures such as when pan frying or barbecuing. Additionally individuals with variations in a gene previously linked to kidney cancer were more susceptible to the effects of one of the carcinogens.


Dr. Ulrike Peters, Member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Public Health Sciences Division, Research Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health (webpage):

Expertise: genetic epidemiology of colorectal cancer, including discovery of novel genetic risk factors as well as gene-environment interactions

“Processed meat has been recently categorized by the WHO/IACR as a carcinogen for colorectal cancer. However, evidence for other cancers is more limited at this point. This study provides some additional evidence that processed meat may also be carcinogenic for other cancers too. It’s too early to say whether genes determine who will develop kidney cancer when eating meat and processed meat. As the authors of the paper carefully state it is very important that independent studies replicate the finding of this study. If those studies suggest a similar link, we would still need more functional studies to understand the underlying mechanism.

“We can expect that multiple common genetic variants modify the effect of environmental and lifestyle factors such as red meat, smoking, or alcohol, on cancer. To identify these variants we will need to conduct very large scale genome-wide gene-environment interaction studies and combine results across multiple studies. Once we have identified more genes we will likely be able to identify a subset of the population that is at particularly high risk to develop kidney cancer if they eat meat and processed meat. However, overall recommendations to limit intake of red and processed meat will remain for the entire population.”


Declared interests (see GENeS register of interests policy):

No further interests declared.



Gene-Environment Interaction of Genome-Wide Association Study-Identified Susceptibility Loci and Meat-Cooking Mutagens in the Etiology of Renal Cell Carcinoma’ by Melkonian et al. published in Cancer at 00:01 ET on Monday 9 November 2015.

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