Acrylamide Gets Clean Bill on Lung Cancer

Source of Article:

By Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today
Published: April 28, 2009
Reviewed by Dori F. Zaleznik, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

TORONTO, April 28 -- Acrylamide, the suspected carcinogen found in potato chips and french fries, is not associated with an increased risk of lung cancer, Dutch researchers found.

Action Points  

  Explain to interested patients that animal studies raised fears that acrylamide, a compound that arises in some cooked foods, might be a carcinogen.

  Note that this study suggests there is no link to lung cancer in men and a possibly protective association in women.

In male participants in a large case-control study, there was no link between the disease and consumption of foods high in acrylamide, according to Janneke Hogervorst, M.Sc., of Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, and colleagues.

On the other hand, in women, eating more of the compound appeared to be associated with a lower risk of lung cancer, the researchers reported online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Acrylamide is found in commonly consumed carbohydrate-rich heated foods, such as french fries and potato chips, and is classified as a probable human carcinogen based on results from animal studies.

The evidence on links to human cancers, on the other hand, is mixed, with some studies showing a link and others finding no association.

To clarify the issue in lung cancer, the researchers turned to the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer, which includes 58,279 men and 62,573 women ages 55 through 69.

They estimated intakes of acrylamide-containing foods and risk factors for

cancer using a self-administered questionnaire at baseline in 1986. Those data were combined with acrylamide levels in relevant Dutch foods to assess the total dietary acrylamide intake.

After 13.3 years of follow-up -- from Sept. 17, 1986 to Jan. 1, 2000 -- there were 2,649 cases of primary and histologically verified lung cancer in the cohort.

For each 10-microgram per day increment of acrylamide intake, the lung cancer hazard ratio for men was 1.03,with a 95% confidence interval from 0.96 to 1.11.

There was also no trend when male participants were divided into quintiles based on acrylamide intake.

For women, the hazard ratio for each 10-microgram per day increment of acrylamide intake was 0.82, with a 95% confidence interval from 0.69 to 0.96, which was statistically significant at P<0.05.

The hazard ratio for lung cancer for the highest quintile of women (median intake of 36.8 micrograms per day) was 0.45, when compared with the lowest quintile (median intake of 9.5 micrograms per day). That trend, too, was significant, at P=0.01.

The researchers said it might be that acrylamide has a hormonal effect on cancer risk, which might explain the contrast between this study and earlier ones showing an increase in postmenopausal endometrial and ovarian cancer.

On the other hand, other factors could also explain the apparent protective effect in women, according to Lorelei Mucci, Sc.D., and Hans-Olov Adami, M.D., Ph.D., both of Harvard School of Public Health.

In an accompanying editorial, they urged caution in interpreting subgroup analyses that are driven by the data rather than a priori hypotheses.

They also said it is hard to rule out chance in such a finding.

"Perhaps the safer conclusion we can make from the Netherlands study is that the findings do not support a positive association between acrylamide intake from diet and risk of lung cancer," they concluded.

The study was supported by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority and the Dutch Cancer Society.

The researchers reported no conflicts.

Primary source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Source reference:
Hogervorst JGF, et al "Lung cancer risk in relation to dietary acrylamide intake" J Natl Cancer Inst 2009; 101: 651-662.

Additional source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute
Source reference:
Mucci LA, Adami, HO "The plight of the potato: Is dietary acrylamide a risk factor for human cancer?" J Natl Cancer Inst 2009; 101: 618-21.


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