The carcinogenicity of acrylamide

Mutat Res. 2005 Feb 7;580(1-2):3-20. doi: 10.1016/j.mrgentox.2004.09.008.


Acrylamide is carcinogenic to experimental mice and rats, causing tumors at multiple organ sites in both species when given in drinking water or by other means. In mice, acrylamide increases the incidence of alveologenic lung tumors and initiates skin tumors after dermal exposures. In two bioassays in rats, acrylamide administered in drinking water consistently induced peritesticular mesotheliomas, thyroid follicular cell tumors, and mammary gland tumors, as well as primary brain tumors when all such tumors were included in data analysis. In one of the rat bioassays, increased numbers of adrenal pheochromocytomas, adenomas of pituitary and clitoral glands, papillomas of the oral cavity, and adenocarcinomas of the uterus also occurred. In both humans and experimental animals, a significant fraction of ingested acrylamide is converted metabolically to the chemically reactive and genotoxic epoxide, glycidamide, which is likely to play an important role in the carcinogenicity of acrylamide. No studies on the carcinogenicity of glycidamide have been published, but bioassays of this compound are in progress. Epidemiologic studies of possible health effects from exposures to acrylamide have not produced consistent evidence of increased cancer risk, in either occupationally exposed workers or the general populations of several countries in which acrylamide is present in certain foods and beverages. A doubling of risk for pancreatic cancer was observed in the most highly exposed workers within the largest industrial cohort, but no consistent exposure-response relationships were identified. Retrospective re-analyses of previously conducted case-control studies of cancer incidence in several European populations have identified no causal relationship between consumption of foods or beverages that contain acrylamide and the incidence of cancers at various sites including kidney, large bowel, urinary bladder, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, and ovary. These retrospective studies of cancer incidence in relation to acrylamide in food have limited power to detect increased cancer risks, and have been criticized on various grounds, but they do indicate that no major cancer risks are attributable to intake of acrylamide in Western diets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acrylamide* / adverse effects
  • Acrylamide* / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Carcinogens* / adverse effects
  • Carcinogens* / toxicity
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Risk


  • Carcinogens
  • Acrylamide