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Study: No Acrylamide-Breast Cancer Link

Swedish Researchers Say Ingredient in Fried and Baked Foods Doesn't Raise Breast Cancer Risk

WebMD Health News

March 15, 2005 - A controversial ingredient known as acrylamideacrylamide found in many fried and baked foods does not appear to raise the risk of breast cancer among women, according to a new report.

Acrylamide made headlines in 2002 when Swedish researchers first discovered it in many commonly eaten foods, such as potato chips, bread, cereals, and coffee. Acrylamide forms when certain carbohydrate-rich foods are fried, baked, or roasted at high temperatures. Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals at high doses, although it is not clear whether it causes cancer at the much lower levels found in food.

The World Health Organization has classified acrylamide as a probable human carcinogen based largely on studies done in animals with doses of acrylamide that were three to five times the amount typically consumed by humans.

But in this study, researchers looked at the acrylamide intake of a large group of Swedish women followed for more than a decade and found no association between the amount of acrylamide in their diets and the risk of breast cancer.

"This is the first prospective study to examine whether acrylamide intake through foods is associated with an increased risk of cancer," says researcher Lorelei Mucci, ScD, MPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, in a news release. "It's reassuring to see that the study suggests that the amount of acrylamide consumed in the Swedish diet is not associated with an excess risk of breast cancer."

The results appear in the March 16 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Eating Foods With Acrylamide

In the study, researchers measured the acrylamide intake of more than 43,000 women, including 667 women with breast cancer, who took part in the Swedish Women's Lifestyle and Health Cohort. Acrylamide intake was determined using food questionnaires reported by the women in 1991, and the women's health was tracked via national health records through 2002.

The results showed that the average acrylamide intake was 25.9 micrograms per day. Less than 1.5% of the women consumed more than one microgram per kilogram of her body weight per day, an amount used in many risk assessment models.

The foods that contributed most to the women's daily acrylamide intake were coffee (54%), fried potatoes (12%), and toast (9%).

When researchers looked at the women who ate the most acrylamide, they found no significant increase in breast cancer risk compared with women who ate the least foods containing acrylamide.

In addition, researchers found no association between breast cancer risk and eating large amounts of specific foods containing high levels of acrylamide, such as coffee, fried potatoes, and toast.

Researchers say they believe these results rule out a significant public health risk of breast cancer associated with eating foods containing acrylamide. But they recommend that the study be repeated in other populations to confirm the results.

Given the widespread availability of acrylamide, however, they say additional studies are needed to examine the possible risk associated with other cancers as well as neurological conditions.

The FDA advises eating a balanced diet, which includes a variety of foods that are low in fat and high in fiber, such as grains, fruits, and vegetables. The FDA is also planning to release new data this spring on acrylamide levels in the U.S. diet.

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