Can eating burnt foods cause cancer?
- Eating foods high in acrylamide, like toast, charred root vegetables or roast potatoes will not increase your risk of cancer
- Acrylamide can be found in starchy food that’s been cooked at high temperatures.
- Your overall diet (what you eat day to day) is more important than individual foods for reducing your cancer risk.
What is acrylamide?
Acrylamide is a chemical that’s found in starchy foods like bread and potatoes, if they’re cooked at high temperatures for a long time.
This includes baking, barbequing, frying, grilling, toasting, or roasting.
You can also find it in other foods such as biscuits and coffee.
Does acrylamide or burnt food cause cancer?
No. Acrylamide from burnt toast, burnt chips, or crispy potatoes is unlikely to increase the risk of cancer.
You might’ve read about a possible link between acrylamide and cancer. But there isn’t enough good quality evidence to show this. For example, some studies aren’t able to accurately measure the amount of acrylamide in people’s diets.
Good quality studies have not shown that acrylamide from food causes cancer in humans.
But there are other things you can do to reduce your risk, such as eating a healthy balanced diet. This is one with more fruits and vegetables and foods high in fibre, like brown varieties of bread, rice and pasta. A healthy diet is low in processed and red meat, and low in foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt.
You don’t need to avoid acrylamide to have a healthy, balanced diet. But some foods with acrylamide are high in calories, so can make it harder to keep a healthy weight.
Does eating burnt meat, including bacon, cause cancer?
How you cook meat like bacon and how crispy you make it does not affect your cancer risk.
But bacon itself is processed meat. And eating processed meat, no matter how it’s cooked, increases the risk of bowel cancer.
So it’s a good idea to cut down on how much processed meat you eat. Find out more about processed and red meat and cancer risk.
Pelucchi C, Bosetti C, Galeone C, La Vecchia C. Dietary acrylamide and cancer risk: an updated meta-analysis. Int J Cancer. 2015;136:2912-2922.
Obon-Santacana M, Peeters PH, Freisling H, et al. Dietary intake of acrylamide and epithelial ovarian cancer risk in the european prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC) cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015;24:291-297.
Obon-Santacana M, Kaaks R, Slimani N, et al. Dietary intake of acrylamide and endometrial cancer risk in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition cohort. Br J Cancer. 2014;111:987-997.