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Playing with Fire: Billboard Warns of Grilled Chicken Carcinogens

Playing With Fire: Grilled Chicken Increases Breast Cancer Risk





October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But grilled chicken causes breast cancer year-round. So last month, a billboard sponsored by PCRM’s Cancer Project warned Louisville residents of this danger, after samples bought at a local KFC tested positive for a dangerous carcinogen. The billboard shows a grill-marked pink ribbon on fire alongside the words: “Playing with Fire. Grilled Chicken Increases Breast Cancer Risk.”

An independent laboratory analysis of grilled chicken samples bought at a KFC outlet in Louisville found they contained significant amounts of PhIP, a chemical that can increase a person’s risk for breast, colon, and prostate cancers—even if consumed in small amounts. PhIP has been identified as a carcinogen by the National Institutes of Health.

“KFC is sending Louisville’s health up in smoke,” said PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D.  “Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women in Kentucky, but KFC has been blatantly marketing its grilled chicken to women as a “healthy” option. Instead, it ought to carry a warning about the carcinogens in the product.”

Each year, about 3,000 women in Kentucky are diagnosed with breast cancer.

PhIP is one of a group of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are found in grilled meat. PhIP and other HCAs do not exist naturally in chicken; they form when animal muscle is cooked to high temperatures. As known mutagens, HCAs can bind directly to DNA and cause mutations, the first step in the development of cancer.

PhIP is only one of the breast-cancer risks present in grilled chicken. More than 60 percent of the calories in a single KFC grilled chicken thigh are fat calories. Studies show countries with a higher fat intake, particularly fat from animal products, have a higher rate of breast cancer.

Billboards aren’t the only way the Cancer Project is getting out its message. This Saturday, PCRM member Kyle Hall is running in the ING Hartford Marathon to prove that people can survive and thrive in the face of a cancer diagnosis. Hall is a cancer survivor who credits his current robust health, in part, to following a vegan diet.

You can support his efforts to help the Cancer Project continue to spread its lifesaving message on the link between nutrition and cancer. The Cancer Project educates tens of thousands each year through its signature Food for Life nutrition and cooking classes and other educational outreach to patients, health care professionals, and anyone interested in taking charge of their health. A gift of any size will help propel Kyle to the finish line and support his goal of raising $2,620—$100 for every mile he runs.

To learn more about the dangers of grilled chicken, visit

Susan Levin, M.S., R.D
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D

PCRM Online, October 2010

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