A new study suggests that exposure to PFAS, a class of greaseproof chemicals that are found in food wrappers, nonstick cookware and other products, in combination with a high-fat diet drives the growth and spread of tumours.

The chemicals were shown to drive both benign and malignant prostate cells into a state that allowed them to proliferate at three times normal speed in mice. When a high-fat diet was added to the mix, the rate of tumour development was significantly accelerated.

This isn’t the first time that PFAS have been in the news in recent months for their detrimental effects on health.

A symposium of academics and experts was held to discuss the effects of PFAS. The symposium featured scientists, engineers and regulatory professionals from public, private and academic institutions. The participants called for new ways to detect these chemicals and more studies to understand the risks they pose to humans.

These entirely man-made chemicals have been used since the 1940s, and although some states have now enacted legislation to restrict the use of PFAS, their ability to persist in the environment means the compounds that already exist will continue to contaminate the environment.

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PFAS: cancer risk


The new study’s findings are believed to be the first to shed light on the interaction between PFAS and dietary fat and how these result in metabolic changes that transform benign prostate cells into malignant ones, causing the rapid growth of tumors.

The scientists injected an aggressive form of malignant human prostate cells into the sides of two groups of male mice, one that was fed a high-fat diet intended to mimic the typical Western diet, with the other being fed a control diet. Some of the mice were also given oral doses of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), one of the most common forms of PFAS, which has already been associated with various cancers.

“We observed an increase in the tumors’ volume when exposed to either the high-fat diet or the PFOS,” said co-author Michael J. Spinella, a scientist in the Cancer Center at Illinois and professor of comparative biosciences.

“However, at 40 days post-injection, we observed that the fastest tumor growth occurred in the group of mice that both ate the high-fat diet and received PFOS exposure, which suggested a synergistic interaction between the two.”

Facemasks releasing toxic chemicals, worrying new study

disposable facemasks

A new study out of the UK has shown that disposable facemasks may be releasing toxins such as lead, antimony and copper upon exposure to water. The new research is alarming, given the astounding quantities of face masks that have been produced – and are being disposed of – as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

As well as the potential to cause damage to the marine environment in particular, this new research also suggests that such disposable facemasks may pose a health risk to huamns as well.

We’ve already looked at some of the health risks associated with wearing disposable facemasks, including impaired breathing and the possibility of inhaling microplastics, but these new findings are potentially far more serious for wearers.

Click here to read more about these worrying new findings!

The scientists followed up with experiments in cell culture. They exposed benign prostate cells and a derivative line of aggressive malignant cells to PFOS and found that the malignant cells replicated at triple the rate of the cells in the control group.

Amazingly, when the researchers exposed the benign and malignant cells to another form of PFAS, perfluorobutane sulfonic acid, the rate increased to five times that of the control group.

Studies have already associated exposure to PFBS with diseases of the thyroid and other organs, and the researchers in this new study hypothesized that metabolic pathways within the cells must be undergoing changes to allow the rapid growth observed to take place.

“We analyzed the metabolites that changed in response to PFOS treatment, and we found that the metabolic phenotype of the prostate cancer cells was altered, upregulating the proliferative energy pathways,” said co-author Joseph Irudayaraj, the associate director for shared resources at the Cancer Center at Illinois and a founder professor of bioengineering at the U. of I.

“Exposure to PFOS significantly upregulated genes associated with metabolism, particularly the molecule pyruvate, which is involved in glucose metabolism, and the precursor molecule acetyl-coenzyme A that facilitates the metabolism of fatty acids and steroids,” he said.

This new research chimes with other recent research that has showed how changes to metabolism of pyruvate and fatty acids could be associated with different forms of cancer, as well as other diseases. Structurally, chemicals in the PFAS family resemble free fatty acids and bind to the same sites on serum proteins.

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