Cancer Research UK reassures women over acrylamide/cancer link

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK moved to reassure women over a study suggesting that a common chemical caused by frying, roasting or grilling may be linked to ovarian and womb cancer.

The charity said that women should not be overly concerned as the study is the first to ever find evidence of a link between acrylamides and cancer and would need repeating before any conclusions could be drawn.

Acrylamide is produced when starchy foods are heated to high temperatures.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at Maastricht University, looked at the eating habits of 120,000 people, half of whom were female.

Volunteers were required to provide details on how much acrylamide-containing food - such as crisps or chips - they ate, and researchers then estimated their average intake.

The findings, which are published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, suggest that women who eat 40 micrograms of acrylamide per day - the amount contained in a portion of chips or half a pack of biscuits - double their risk of womb and ovarian cancer.

Acrylamides have been the subject of controversy since a Swedish study in 2002 reported that many foods contain high levels.

The chemical is known to damage DNA, but a number of recent studies have concluded that the amounts contained in food are too low to significantly increase the risk of cancer.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, commented: "Women shouldn't be unduly worried by this news. As the authors point out, this is the first time a link between acrylamide and womb and ovarian cancer has been suggested, and further studies are needed to confirm this finding.

"It's not easy to separate out one component of the diet from all the others when studying the complex diets of ordinary people.

"And as acrlyamide levels are highest in carbohydrate containing foods, such as chips and crisps, other factors need to be firmly ruled out - especially being overweight or obese, which we know is strongly linked to womb cancer and probably linked to ovarian cancer."

Dr Walker concluded: "The best dietary advice for reducing your risk of cancer is to eat a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables and fibre, and low in fat."