Red Meat-derived heterocyclic amines increase risk of colon cancer: A population-based case-control study

Drew S. Helmus, Cheryl L. Thompson, Svetlana Zelenskiy, Thomas C. Tucker, Li Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Formation of mutagenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is one pathway believed to drive the association of colon cancer with meat consumption. Limited data exist on the associations of individual HCAs and PAHs in red or white meat with colon cancer. Analyzing data from a validated meat preparation questionnaire completed by 1062 incident colon cancer cases and 1645 population controls from an ongoing case-control study, risks of colon cancer were estimated using unconditional logistic regression models, comparing the fourth to the first quartile of mutagen estimates derived from a CHARRED based food frequency questionnaire. Total dietary intake of 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx) [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.87, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.44-2.44, Ptrend < 0.0001], 2-amino-3,4,8-trimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (DiMeIQx) (aOR = 1.68, 95% CI = 1.29-2.17, Ptrend = 0.001) and meat-derived mutagenic activity (aOR = 1.77, 95% CI = 1.36-2.30, Ptrend < 0.0001) were statistically significantly associated with colon cancer risk. Meat type specific analyses revealed statistically significant associations for red meat-derived MeIQx, DiMeIQx, and mutagenic activity but not for the same mutagens derived from white meat. Our study adds evidence supporting red meat-derived, but not white-meat derived HCAs and PAHs, as an important pathway for environmental colon cancer carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-1150
Number of pages10
JournalNutrition and Cancer
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Carly Levin for efforts collecting data and Audrey Lynn for editorial comments on manuscript drafts. This work was supported by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (award CI-8) and the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services (grant R01-CA136726).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Oncology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Cancer Research


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