New research conducted by scientists at the Yale School of Public Health suggests that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as forever chemicals, can promote the migration of cancer cells, potentially contributing to cancer metastasis. The study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, sheds light on the toxic effects of PFAS, a group of industrial chemicals that are resistant to degradation and can accumulate in the human body.
PFAS are pervasive in the environment and have been found in various sources, including drinking water, indoor dust, cleaning products, and coatings. These chemicals have been detected in the blood of newborns, individuals in sub-Arctic Indigenous communities, fish and mussels, and even birds’ eggs. Due to their widespread presence, no level of PFAS in the body is considered safe. They have been linked to various health problems, including cancers. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently classified perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), two common PFAS, as potentially carcinogenic to humans.
The study focused on the relationship between PFAS and colorectal carcinoma (CRC), a type of cancer that firefighters often experience at higher rates due to their heavy exposure to PFAS at work. The researchers conducted experiments with CRC cells immersed in a PFAS solution for up to seven days. They observed increased cell motility and metabolic changes consistent with cancer metastasis, providing evidence that PFAS can induce the spread of cancer cells.
Metabolomic analysis revealed that the CRC cells exposed to PFAS produced various fatty acids, amino acids, and signaling proteins that are associated with metastasis. Additionally, specific signal proteins related to metastasis were upregulated or downregulated during a process known as the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). These findings suggest that PFAS can impact cancer cell growth and behavior, particularly in cancers with specific mutations.
While the study focused on in vitro experiments, the researchers aim to conduct future studies with lower exposure levels that are more representative of everyday exposure. They also plan to investigate the levels of PFAS and their clinical outcomes in colorectal cancer patients.
This research contributes to the ongoing efforts of scientists to better understand the exposome, which encompasses all environmental influences on an individual throughout their life. Given the widespread presence of PFAS and their potential health impacts, understanding their mechanisms and effects on cancer cell growth is crucial.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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