Acrylamide intake, at levels commonly consumed in the Dutch diet, had no impact on the risk of lung cancer, according to findings of a study with 58,279 men and 62,573 women in the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
On the other hand, women who ate the most acrylamide-containing foods were found to have a statistically significant lower incidence of lung cancer, compared to women with the lowest intake of acrylamide-containing foods.
In an accompanying editorial Lorelei Mucci and Hans-Olov Adami from Harvard School of Public Health said speculation about the potential mechanisms of the protective effect of acrylamide on lung cancer in women “should await confirmation of the association in additional studies”.
"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," added Mucci and Adami.
Acrylamide is a suspected carcinogen that is formed during by heat-induced reaction between sugar and an amino acid called asparagine. Known as the Maillard reaction, this process is responsible for the brown colour and tasty flavour of baked, fried and toasted foods.
Despite being a carcinogen in the laboratory, some epidemiological studies have reported that everyday exposure to acrylamide in food is too low to be of concern.
Where the compound has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, these have included endometrial, ovarian, renal cell, and oestrogen-receptor positive breast cancers.
The Dutch researchers, led by Janneke Hogervorst, used food frequency questionnaires to estimate dietary intakes of acrylamide for 58,279 men and 62,573 women aged between 55 and 69. Dietary sources of acrylamide were classified as potato crisps, French fries, Dutch spiced cake, coffee, bread, and cookies.
After 13 years of follow-up, lung cancer had been diagnosed in 1,600 men and 295 women. No significant differences were observed between men with the highest and lowest average dietary intakes.
However, women with the highest consumption of acrylamide-containing foods were reported to have a statistically significant lower incidence of lung cancer.
"Acrylamide intake was not associated with lung cancer risk in men but was inversely associated in women… This finding suggests that acrylamide is involved in human carcinogenesis through pathways other than genotoxicity," wrote the authors.
According to Hogervorst and her co-workers, acrylamide may reduce the risk of lung cancer in women by affecting hormonal balances. This would also explain why it may increase the risk of endometrial and ovarian malignancies, they added.
“We strongly encourage other research groups to examine the association between dietary acrylamide intake and the risk of lung cancer, separately among men and women and stratified by smoking status and alcohol consumption,” concluded the researchers.
Drs Mucci and Adami stated: “No epidemiological study of acrylamide and lung cancer has previously been reported, and we commend the researchers for expanding the state of knowledge around the possible carcinogenic effects of acrylamide.”
The Boston-based scientists expressed caution however over the potential protective role for the compound in women with respect to lung cancer risk.
Source: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 6 May 2009, Volume 101, Issue 9, Pages 651-662, doi: 10.1093/jnci/djp077"Lung Cancer Risk in Relation to Dietary Acrylamide Intake" Authors: J.G.F. Hogervorst , L.J. Schouten , E.J.M. Konings , R.A. Goldbohm , P.A. van den Brandt
Editorial: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 6 May 2009, Volume 101, Issue 9, Pages 618-621“The Plight of the Potato: Is Dietary Acrylamide a Risk Factor for Human Cancer?” Authors: L.A. Mucci , H.-O. Adami