Researchers found that middle-aged adults who ate the most red meat were 19 percent more likely to be diagnosed with kidney cancer than those who ate the least. A higher intake of chemicals found in grilled or barbecued meat was also linked to increased risk of the disease, they reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"Red meat is an important source for iron (and) it has protein," said Dr. Mohammed El-Faramawi, an epidemiologist from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, who has studied diet and kidney cancer risks but wasn't involved in the new study.
"You should not stop eating red meat because there is an association between red meat and renal cancer," he said. Instead, eating a limited amount of meat while following dietary recommendations is a good idea, he added.
U.S. guidelines call for limiting high-fat foods including processed meat, and instead eating more lean meat and poultry, seafood and nuts.
Eating red meat in large amounts -- even if it doesn't necessarily lead to kidney cancer -- increases the risk of a host of health problems, such as plaque buildup in the arteries, El-Faramawi added.
For now, meat-related cooking chemicals "can be reduced by avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface, reducing the cooking time, and using a microwave oven to partially cook meat before exposing it to high temperatures," according to Carrie Daniel, from the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Maryland.
"Our findings," she concluded, "support the dietary recommendations for cancer prevention currently put forth by the American Cancer Society -- limit intake of red and processed meats and prepare meat by cooking methods such as baking and broiling."