BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 10:29 GMT
Food chemical cleared of cancer link
Boy eating chips
Chips are among the foods containing acrylamide
High levels of a chemical found in foods such as chips, crisps and bread do not, as feared, seem to raise the risk of cancer, research suggests.

Research in the past year has shown that many types of cooked food contained moderately high levels of a chemical called acrylamide, which is considered to be potentially carcinogenic.

This study provides preliminary evidence that there's less to worry about than was thought

Dr Lorelei Mucci
Acrylamide appears to form as a result of a reaction at high temperatures between specific sugars and other chemicals found in food.

But scientists from the US and Sweden found that dietary levels of acrylamide do not seem to be sufficient to increase the risk of large bowel, bladder and kidney cancers the forms of the disease likely to be affected.

Researchers studied the diets of 987 cancer patients and 538 healthy people, in order to see if there was any link between the amount of high-acrylamide food eaten and risk of the disease.

Each person in the study filled out a detailed questionnaire, listing how often they ate a total of 188 different types of food.

These included some - such as crisps, french fries, fried potatoes, bread and biscuits - which contain high to medium levels of acrylamide.

Scientists calculated overall levels of the chemical in each individual's diet.

Possible risk

Lead researcher Dr Lorelei Mucci, of the Harvard School of Public Health, said: "The discovery last year that many types of food contained high levels of acrylamide was disturbing, since acrylamide is classified as a probable carcinogen.

"It's therefore reassuring that the levels of acrylamide that individuals are generally exposed to through food do not appear to increase the risk of these cancers.

"There remain several food items whose acrylamide levels are not known, so there is still a chance that extremely high levels of the chemical could contribute to cancer risk.

"Plus acrylamide increases the risk of certain neurological conditions and there are currently no data looking at the intake of acrylamide-rich foods and these diseases.

"Overall, though, this study provides preliminary evidence that there's less to worry about than was thought."

Other factors

Researchers took into account a number of other factors which affect cancer risk, most importantly smoking, which is itself a major source of acrylamide and many other proven carcinogens.

There was no relationship between dietary acrylamide and the risk of bladder or kidney cancer.

But high amounts of acrylamide were associated with reduced risk of bowel cancer, although this may be because the foods high in acrylamide are also rich in other factors, such as fibre, that may reduce the risk of the disease.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "We know that acrylamide can be carcinogenic to animals, but this study suggests that either levels in food are too low to affect cancer risk, or that the body is able to deactivate the chemical in some way."

The research is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

See also:

12 Aug 02 | 4x4 Reports
24 May 00 | Health
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes