How to Enjoy Summer without Raising Your Cancer Risk

by Joanna Steere

As summer takes hold, it’s often hard to resist the delicious aroma of a backyard barbecue or soaking in some rays at the beach. However, it’s important to know the health risks associated with these common activities, especially when cancer’s involved.

Grill Clean
The blackened areas on charred and grilled foods like meat, poultry, and fish contain carcinogenic chemicals. Carcinogens damage DNA, consequently catalyzing mutations that can lead to cancer. If these chemicals appear frequently in your diet, your risk of getting cancer can increase. To reduce carcinogenic intake:

  • Cook with less intense heat and lower temperatures.
  • Keep your grill clean.
  • Use lean meats.
  • When grilling meat, poultry or fish, flip often.
  • Choose acid based marinades like lemon or vinaigrettes over thicker, sugary marinades.


  • Substitute grilled meats with colorful vegetables and other plant based foods like tofu or tempeh, as they don’t produce cancer-causing chemicals when cooked at high heats.
  • Remember that maintaining a healthy weight, consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, and engaging in regular exercise can all help reduce your risk of cancer.

For healthy additions to any summer meal, try recipes for Strawberry Watermelon Gazpacho, Grilled Fruit Kabobs, Marinated Vegetable Kabobs,  or Cowboy Caviar. Nutrition app on iphone 4 and iphone 5.You can find more healthy recipes on Dana-Farber’s nutrition pages or in our free Nutrition app.

Protect Your Skin
Spending a day in the sun sounds fun, but it’s no picnic for your skin. Unprotected exposure is a huge contributor to the development of skin cancer, and can often be easily prevented if the right steps are taken.

  • Avoid unprotected sun exposure and seek shade when possible.
  • Wear sun protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and shirts with long sleeves.
  • Apply the recommended amount of broad-spectrum (blocking UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or above when going outside. Find out how to look for the expiration dates on sunscreen with our sun safety video.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or as needed.
  • Finally, check your entire body for changes in your skin on a monthly basis.

Learn more about identifying /preventing melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) and five myths about the disease in this  informational video and blog post from Jennifer Y. Lin, MD, of Dana-Farber’s Melanoma Treatment Program.

2 thoughts on “How to Enjoy Summer without Raising Your Cancer Risk”

  1. Thank you for the information about eating blackened/charred meat! This was something I did not know.

  2. The advice about exercising is right on. Even when I feel extemelhy weak and don’t want to move, I feel much better during and after exercising. In the middle of chemotherapy treatments, I am still jogging, swimming, lifting weights, and doing pilates and yoga. I know it helps tremendously.

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