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Cocktail of common chemicals may trigger cancer: study

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London: A cocktail of 50 chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, including some found in water bottles, cosmetics and pesticides, may trigger cancer, a new global study has warned. A global taskforce of 174 scientists from leading research centres across 28 countries studied the link between mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals and the development of cancer.

The study selected 85 chemicals not considered carcinogenic to humans and found 50 supported key cancer-related mechanisms at exposures found in the environment today. “This research backs up the idea that chemicals not considered harmful by themselves are combining and accumulating in our bodies to trigger cancer and might lie behind the global cancer epidemic we are witnessing,” Cancer Biologist Dr Hemad Yasaei from Brunel University London said.

“We urgently need to focus more resources to research the effect of low dose exposure to mixtures of chemicals in the food we eat, air we breathe and water we drink,” said Yasaei. “A review on this scale, looking at environmental chemicals from the perspective of all the major hallmarks of cancer, is unprecedented,” Professor Andrew Ward from the University of Bath, said.


In light of the compelling evidence the taskforce is calling for an increased emphasis on and support for research into low dose exposures to mixtures of environmental chemicals.

Current research estimates chemicals could be responsible for as many as one in five cancers. With the human population routinely exposed to thousands of chemicals, the effects need to be better understood to reduce the incidence of cancer globally.

“Since so many chemicals that are unavoidable in the environment can produce low dose effects that are directly related to carcinogenesis, the way we’ve been testing chemicals is really quite out of date,” William Goodson III, from the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and lead author of the synthesis said.

“Every day we are exposed to an environmental ‘chemical soup’, so we need testing that evaluates the effects of our ongoing exposure to these chemical mixtures,” said Goodson III.

“Specifically, bisphenol A, chlorothalonil, dibutyl phthalate, dichlorvos, lindane, linuron, methoxychlor and oxyfluorfen are discussed as prototypical chemical disruptors; as their effects relate to resistance to cell death, as constituents within environmental mixtures and as potential contributors to environmental carcinogenesis,” researchers said. The research was published in the journal Carcinogenesis.