Figures suggest that increased consumption of certain foods are tied to a rise in cancer – notably those which are ultra-foods, packed with additives and preservatives. Other seemingly healthier foods , however, could release toxic chemicals classified as ‘carcinogens’ when cooked at high temperatures.
Potatoes have been found to contain higher levels of acrylamide, which is a chemical used in a wide range of industrial processes including water purification.
According to the American cancer society, the chemical is also used in textiles, food processing, plastic and agriculture industries.
During the cooking process, the sugars and amino acids in potatoes act together, producing thousands of different chemicals.
Starchy foods particularly, contain a higher concentration of acrylamide when cooked at temperatures over 120C.
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The chemical has also been found in bread, breakfast cereals, biscuits and coffee.
When ingested, acrylamide into another compound known as glycidamide, which has been shown to bind to DNA and cause mutations – one of the key processes driving the spread of cancer cells.
To date, studies probing the effect of the compound on animals have concluded that it could cause a variety of cancers.
Emma Shields, at charity Cancer Research UK, told New Scientist: “Although evidence from animal studies has shown that acrylamide in food could be linked to cancer, this link isn’t clear ad consistent in humans.
“It’s important to remember that there are many well-established factors like smoking, obesity and alcohol, which all have a big impact on the number of cancer cases in the UK.
“To be on the safe side, people can reduce their exposure by following a normal healthy, balanced diet, – which includes eating fewer high calorie foods like crisps, chips and biscuits, which are major source of acrylamide’. “
The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies acrylamide and a probable human carcinogen, while the US National Toxicology Program classifies it as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
A 2015 study into the chemical has found that it was linked to damage to the nervous and reproductive system.
The blood test, which is being launched by the NHS, will be part of the world’s biggest trial, including more than 100,000 volunteers.
When a tumour is detected at the earliest stage, patients are five to 10 times more likely to survive.
Chief executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, said the test could mark the beginning of a revolution in cancer detection and treatment.
Professor Peter Sasieni, the director of the Cancer Research UK and King’s College London cancer prevention trials unit, said: “We need to study the Galleri test carefully to find out whether it can significantly reduce the number of cancers diagnosed at a late stage.”