Acrylamide in Diet: Cancer Risk?
Study Shows Consumption of Chemical May Be Linked to Renal Cancer
WebMD News Archive
May 9, 2008 -- The chemical acrylamide -- found in French fries, potato
chips, and even bread and coffee -- is known to cause cancer in animal studies. Now
new research from the Netherlands suggests that it may do the same in
Acrylamide is used in the manufacture of cosmetics, plastics, and food
packaging. Until just a few years ago, cigarette smoke and occupational
exposures were considered the main sources of exposure to the compound.
But in 2002, researchers in Sweden reported that the chemical is also
present in certain foods, especially starchy foods that are fried or baked.
Even black olives and breakfast cereals have some acrylamide, University of
Southern California professor and nutrition expert Roger Clemens, DrPH, tells WebMD.
"It is clear that our foods have contained this compound since man
started cooking with fire," he says.
Acrylamide and Cancer
What is less clear is whether dietary exposure to acrylamide poses a health
In an effort to address this question, researchers from Maastricht
University in the Netherlands examined data from a large Dutch study on diet
and cancer begun in 1986.
Almost 121,000 participants between the ages of 55 and 70 completed a
detailed food-frequency questionnaire designed to determine their eating
habits. The answers, combined with a separate database, were used to estimate
For this study, the researchers focused on acrylamide intake and cancers of
the kidney, bladder, and prostate. After a follow-up of 13 years, there were
339 cases of kidney cancer, 1,210 cases of bladder
cancer, and 2,246 cases of prostate
On average, people in the study ate about 22 micrograms of acrylamide a day.
To put this amount in perspective, a 2.5-ounce serving of French fries contains
about 25 micrograms of the chemical.
The participants were divided into five categories of acrylamide
consumption. People who ate the highest amounts of the chemical were found to
have a 59% greater risk for kidney cancer than those who ate the least,
researcher Janneke G. Hogervorst tells WebMD.
The risk appeared to be especially strong for smokers.