Science time: The culprit seems to be heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals are formed when meat -- including beef, pork, fish and poultry -- are cooked using high-temperatures, like pan frying or grilling over an open flame.

This doesn't mean you have to go vegan, wear hemp and change your name to Moonbeam.

According to the National Cancer Institute, HCA and PAH formation can be mitigated by avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface. If also helps if you reduce cooking time and use a microwave oven to partially cook the meat before you take it to high temperature sources.

Once you've eaten all that tasty grilled meat, you might want to work it off ...

obesity in America

No. 2: Obesity

As if being shamed vicariously through "The Biggest Loser" hasn't been enough to encourage you to lose weight, here's a really good reason to drop those excess pounds: Being overweight has been linked to a number of different types of cancer from breast cancer to colorectal cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, cancers of the colon, breast, endometrium, kidney and esophagus are associated with obesity. Some studies have also reported links between obesity and cancers of the gallbladder, pancreas and ovaries.

In 2002, about 41,000 new cases of cancer in the United States were estimated to be due to obesity. This means that about 3.2 percent of all new cancers are linked to obesity.

Ideally, we'd all have 12 percent body fat and compete in triathlons for fun. Realistically, that will never happen, but you needn't go that far. Even a small weight loss can help reduce your risk of cancer.

Stop us if you've heard this last one ...

smoking cigarette with ash

No. 1: Smoking

When the surgeon general talks, it's a good idea to listen. So when you pick up a pack of cigarettes and there's that surgeon general's warning on the side, that's good information to pay special attention to.We all know smoking is bad, and the National Cancer Institute makes these observations about smoking:

  • Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 443,000 deaths each year, including approximately 49,400 deaths due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States. Ninety percent of lung cancer can be blamed on smoking.
  • Smoking causes many other types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia.

Basically, in case you haven't figured it out by now, if you smoke: Stop.

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