DEAR DR. BLONZ: I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your column about grilling foods. When I was much younger, I would barbecue two or three times a week using charcoal. That went on for at least 20 years. I attributed that to my developing colon cancer when I was 54. My good friend with a similar lifestyle had the same result. So, with all of that said, you didn't mention specifically the use of charcoal -- any relevance? -- D., via email
DEAR D.: Thanks for your note, and sorry you had to experience colorectal cancer. I am hopeful that you caught it early, as that can make all the difference. We all should undergo routine screenings starting at age 45 or earlier as worked out with our health professionals. The colonoscopy, a critical screening method, is not a joyous experience, but it is trivial compared to the risks generated through avoidance.
The key concern here is the formation of carcinogenic substances when fats drop on a hot surface and get transformed. These nasties can then get carried back and deposited on the food; this can occur with grills that use gas or charcoal, and it can also happen with pan-frying and broiling. When cooking outside, care should be taken to avoid inhaling smoke, especially that from fat flare-ups. When cooking indoors, there should always be good ventilation to avoid any unintended inhalation of these nasty substances, including carbon monoxide, making it important to have a sensor nearby.
Back to your question: Possible contributors were more likely what you were making and how it was typically prepared on the grill. Also involved would be the other foods on the plate and the overall quality of your diet and lifestyle. Then, in addition to those lifestyle and environmental factors, genetic issues can also raise the risk of colorectal cancer; these can be identified by DNA health tests available to consumers.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is there a supplement for varicose veins and bad circulation in the legs? Mine ache, itch and feel very heavy whenever I'm standing. -- P.C., Chicago
DEAR P.C.: Rather than thinking first about supplements, your priority should be to determine what is behind the problems with your legs, including that sensation of heaviness that you feel. Check with your physician to discuss these issues. It could involve something as basic as rest or muscle tone, or some other factor for which a supplement would not be of any proven value.
When faced with an unknown, it is best to learn all you can before turning to dietary supplements. This would be especially important if there are other health issues at play and medications being used.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to email@example.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.