Once it's in the body, acrylamide is converted into glycidamide, a compound that can cause mutations and damage in DNA, according to the NCI. But although acrylamide exposure is known to increase the risk of cancer in rodents, the evidence is less clear for humans, the NCI says.
Some studies suggest that acrylamide could increase cancer risk in humans, but others find that it doesn't have an effect. It's possible that researchers get mixed results in humans because it's challenging to determine how much acrylamide is in people's diets, the NCI says. Moreover, humans and rodents absorb and metabolize acrylamide at different rates, which may explain the disparate results between rodents and humans.
However, because of its link to cancer in rodents, acrylamide is listed as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency that's part of the World Health Organization. Because of this listing, a California nonprofit group called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics has sued several companies that make or sell coffee, including Starbucks, 7-Eleven and BP, according to CNN.