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The Chemicals In Burned Toast And Crispy Fries Won't Kill You, But The Calories Might

A new campaign to promote awareness about not burning food like toast and potatoes were launched. Doing so generates a chemical called acrylamide, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer categorised as "probably carcinogenic to humans. There's just one problem: there's no compelling proof that acrylamide causes cancer in humans. Cancer Research UK notes that acrylamide could produce mutations linked to cancer when they interact with DNA but human studies have yet to find such a connection.

There's no evidence that acrylamide consumption increases the risk of getting any cancer says the American Cancer Society but the Chief Cancer Control Officer at the American Cancer Society Richard Wender, note that fried potatoes and other crispy carbs have one link to cancer. They are the second leading cause of preventable cancer in the US, just behind tobacco and are full of unnecessary calories and obesity.

Many articles on cancer hazards cite the IARC's list of possible cancer causes. Despite the fact that court cases reveal IARC designations as confirmation on whether something is or is not carcinogenic.

The Group 2A list is just one level below Group 1 where acrylamide resides, which lists known cancer causes and includes things such as human papillomavirus (HPV), insecticides, malaria, and working as a petroleum refiner. When you understand that Group 2A also includes being a shiftwork hairdresser, that involves disrupting your circadian rhythm, and very hot beverages, it sounds scary.

It doesn't mean that everything on the list all causes cancer in humans because of some evidence that might increase a person's risk for cancer. The IARC's greatest misunderstanding is this: the IARC classifies possible carcinogens by how likely it is that they cause cancer but doesn't classify known carcinogens by how much cancer they cause.

Animal studies reveal the acrylamide's place on the IARC list shows very high doses of acrylamide to raise the risk of certain kinds of cancer in non-human animals. Those studies recommend that acrylamide can cause cancer through some strange mechanism, cause changes in DNA that result in cancer but researchers have yet to discover what that mechanism might be.

To test carcinogenic; rats and mice were given acrylamide; they're given higher doses of 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than what humans are commonly exposed to in food. This method allows researchers to see even the tiniest effects and is the common way of testing carcinogenicity. A Professor and statistician of the Public Understanding of Risk at University of Cambridge, David Spiegelhalter and Dr Alastair Brown from DearJane Medical says Adults with the enormous consumption of acrylamide could consume 160 times more and still only be at a stage that toxicologists think unlikely to cause elevated tumors in mice."

Human studies haven't found any increased risk to cite, so none of the articles discussing burnt toast and potatoes cited statistics. The numbers are likely to be minuscule even if they had, which means the risk had to be reported in a measured way.

For example, Brian Zikmund-Fisher illustrates a problem that the FDA put out a warning that people shouldn't eat cookie dough because some flour is infected with E. coli, but the chances that you are getting such an infection are tiny. It would be easy to say that the FDA shouldn't be frightening people about such a small risk.

Zikmund-Fisher opposes and says the FDA is not wrong for saying that consuming raw flour has an incremental risk, but if we're not discussing recalled flour, the absolute risk is minimal. People will need to estimate how much they value burnt potatoes and toast if acrylamide does increase our risk of having cancer by some tiny amount.

Scientists, government agencies, and journalists have to communicate the risks precisely for folks to make an informed choice. A Director of the Behavioral Decision Making Initiative at The Ohio State University, Ellen Peters says people overestimate that they will to benefit from a medication if you don't give them the numeric chances of benefit. Providing the number or not is the biggest difference she says. There were no numbers to give in the case of burnt potatoes, but the fact that a risk is involved makes a difference. Peters says this is not a neutral way to present information.

You're likely to ignore hundreds of articles for years on various things that may or may not increase your cancer risk. Zikmund-Fisher says we can only bother so much at any given point in time, and when we bombard people with messages, they turn it all off. All this bombardment makes people focus on the wrong things. This means that cumulative experience is not optimal.

You can dramatically reduce your risk of getting or dying from cancer by Avoiding all tobacco, trying to achieve a healthy weight as possible, exercising, protecting yourself from the sun. Getting cancer-preventing vaccines like HPV vaccines a Hepatitis B, being screened for Hepatitis C, and getting all recommended cancer screens. Follow these steps and cancer risk would be cut in half if you eat the occasional fried potato and burnt toast.