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Do Common Chemicals Cause Cancer

Posted 7/9/2015

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  We all agree that environmental factors likely play some role in the development of some cancers. The most obvious ones are asbestos or second hand tobacco smoke, but there surely are others. There are a million theories about dry cleaning fluids and preservatives and everything in what we eat and drink and breath. The trouble, of course, is that it is virtually impossible to isolate any one thing and say AHA, THAT'S IT.

  As an example, there are a number of studies that indicate the the rate of breast cancer is lower in Japan than in Western countries while the rate of gastric cancer is higher. Is this due to diet? To differences in the air? To whatever surrounds people in Tokyo vs whatever surrounds people in New York or Bonn?

  This whole topic has again been in the news with the publication of a review of previous studies in the journal,Carcinogenesis. The suggestion was that many common chemicals are cancer-causing culprits This may, in the very long run, turn out to be true, but the evidence to date seems pretty flimsy. Here is the start of an article about this controversy and then a link to read more:

No, soup of everyday chemicals isn't a cancer-causing combo
Could chemicals deemed safe at common doses be carcinogenic when mixed? It's a fair question, but there is no evidence of harm, says Cancer Research UK's health information officer
No reason to fear the chemicals (Image: Monkey Business Images/REX)
Once again, headlines this week screamed about everyday chemicals that are supposedly "cancer causing". People could be forgiven for being alarmed. But while stories like this seem to appear almost daily, the claims aren't often supported by the science.
The publication that sparked the latest media storm was a large review of pre-existing studies published in the journal Carcinogenesis. It assessed the state of the evidence around cancer and a group of common chemicals that many people are likely to be exposed to, ranging from Bisphenol A (used to make plastics more mouldable) to the antibacterial agent triclosan (found in some soaps) to iron.
All are widely present in the environment but aren't considered carcinogenic. What these chemicals have in common is that, while they don't cause cancer, they can affect cells in other ways, including causing them to exhibit some of the hallmarks of cancer.


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