Acrylamide may increase female cancer risks

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cancer

Increased dietary intakes of acrylamide could raise the risk of
endometrial and ovarian cancer by 29 and 78 per cent, respectively,
says a new study.

Over 62,000 women in the Netherlands, aged between 55 and 69, took part in the research that is one of only a handful of studies showing significant increases in cancer risk, and highlighting the need for reformulation or process changes in the food industry to reduce the presence in food. Acrylamide is a carcinogen that is created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, fried or toasted. It first hit the headlines in 2002, when scientists at the Swedish Food Administration first reported unexpectedly high levels of acrylamide, found to cause cancer in laboratory rats, in carbohydrate-rich foods. Despite being a carcinogen in the laboratory, many epidemiological studies have reported that everyday exposure to acrylamide in food is too low to be of concern. The new study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention​, both challenges and supports previous studies - while increased risks for endometrial and ovarian cancers were reported, acrylamide intake was not related to breast cancer risk, as reported by others. Janneke Hogervorst and co-workers from the University of Maastricht examined data from 62,573 women taking part in the Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer. Average dietary acrylamide intake for the population was assessed in a random sample of 2,589 women. The women answered a food frequency questionnaire. Smoking habits were factored into the analysis since smoking is an important source of acrylamide. After 11.3 years of follow-up, the researchers reported 327, 300, and 1,835 cases of endometrial, ovarian, and breast cancer, respectively. The average acrylamide intake for the sample population was 8.9 micrograms per day. The highest average acrylamide intake (40.2 micrograms per day) was associated with a significant increase in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer. No effect on breast cancer was observed. Hogervorst and co-workers also note that the risks were even more pronounced in people with no history of smoking: the highest average acrylamide intake was associated with a 99 per cent and 122 per cent increase in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers, respectively. Again, no significant effect on breast cancer was observed. "We observed increased risks of postmenopausal endometrial and ovarian cancer with increasing dietary acrylamide intake, particularly among never-smokers,"​ wrote the researchers. The contradiction between other observational studies and those of animal studies, where high acrylamide doses led to increased rates of cancer of the thyroid, testicles, breasts, and uterus, has been suggested to be due to excessive exposure of the animals to the chemical - the animal studies used does 1,000 to 100,000 times higher than what humans are exposed to, and the animal studies provided the acrylamide from water, unlike humans who obtain acrylamide from food sources. Scientists have also suggests that humans may effectively detoxify acrylamide when consumed at dietary levels. Despite the inconsistency in the literature, industry and universities are actively exploring effective ways of reducing the formation of acrylamide. Moreover, acrylamide-reducing ingredients are already commercially available. Source: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention​ Volume 16, Pages 2304-2313 "A Prospective Study of Dietary Acrylamide Intake and the Risk of Endometrial, Ovarian, and Breast Cancer" ​Authors: Janneke G. Hogervorst, L.J. Schouten, E.J. Konings, R.A. Goldbohm, and P.A. van den Brandt

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