Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Carcinogen


The broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (common trade name “Roundup”) was first sold to farmers in 1974. Since the late 1970s, the volume of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) applied has increased approximately 100-fold. Further increases in the volume applied are likely due to more and higher rates of application in response to the widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds and new, pre-harvest, dessicant use patterns. GBHs were developed to replace or reduce reliance on herbicides causing well-documented problems associated with drift and crop damage, slipping efficacy, and human health risks. Initial industry toxicity testing suggested that GBHs posed relatively low risks to non-target species, including mammals, leading regulatory authorities worldwide to set high acceptable exposure limits. To accommodate changes in GBH use patterns associated with genetically engineered, herbicide-tolerant crops, regulators have dramatically increased tolerance levels in maize, oilseed (soybeans and canola), and alfalfa crops and related livestock feeds. Animal and epidemiology studies published in the last decade, however, point to the need for a fresh look at glyphosate toxicity. Furthermore, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In response to changing GBH use patterns and advances in scientific understanding of their potential hazards, we have produced a Statement of Concern drawing on emerging science relevant to the safety of GBHs. Our Statement of Concern considers current published literature describing GBH uses, mechanisms of action, toxicity in laboratory animals, and epidemiological studies. It also examines the derivation of current human safety standards. We conclude that: (1) GBHs are the most heavily applied herbicide in the world and usage continues to rise; (2) Worldwide, GBHs often contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions; (3) The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognized; (4) Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply; (5) Human exposures to GBHs are rising; (6) Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen; (7) Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science. We offer a series of recommendations related to the need for new investments in epidemiological studies, biomonitoring, and toxicology studies that draw on the principles of endocrinology to determine whether the effects of GBHs are due to endocrine disrupting activities. We suggest that common commercial formulations of GBHs should be prioritized for inclusion in government-led toxicology testing programs such as the U.S. National Toxicology Program, as well as for biomonitoring as conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Agriculture, Animal testing, Toxicology, Carcinogen, Herbicide, Glyphosate, Roundup


A progressive increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer (TC) has been reported over the last few decades. This either reflects the increased number of newly discovered and accurately selected thyroid nodules with more sensitive technologies and a relative more potent carcinogenic effect of pathogenetic factors in malignant, but not benign nodules. This observational time-trend study addresses this issue by analysing the proportion of TC within 8411 consecutive thyroid nodule (TN) patients evaluated in Pisa by the same pathology Department and individual clinician over a four-decade period. From 1972 to 1979 surgery was used to detect TC among the TN patients: 1140 TN patients were operated on and 35 cancers were detected (3.1% of all the TN patients). Subsequently, needle aspiration techniques were used to select TN for surgery. From 1980 to 1992, 5403 TN patients were examined, 483 were selected for surgery, and 150 cancers were found (2.8% of all the TN patients). From 1993 to 2010, 1568 TN patients were examined, 143 were selected for surgery, and 46 cancers were found (2.9% of all the TN patients). Therefore, in the University Hospital of Pisa, and independent of preoperative TN selection protocols, these proportions of TN eventually found to harbor TC remained statistically unchanged over 40 years (pā€Š=ā€Š0.810). This finding suggests that pathogenic risk factors and more sensitive diagnostic technologies did not differentially affect the incidence of TN and TC.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Oncology, Pathology, Hospital, Needle aspiration biopsy, Selection, Carcinogen


Aflatoxins (AFs) are highly carcinogenic compounds produced by Aspergillus species in seeds with high lipid and protein contents. It has been known for over 30 years that peptone is not conducive for AF productions, although reasons for this remain unknown.

Concepts: DNA, Amino acid, Fungus, Aspergillus flavus, Aflatoxin, Aspergillus, Peanut, Carcinogen



Oil and gas development emits known hematological carcinogens, such as benzene, and increasingly occurs in residential areas. We explored whether residential proximity to oil and gas development was associated with risk for hematologic cancers using a registry-based case-control study design.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Oncology, Leukemia, Benzene, Case-control study, Study design, Carcinogen


The widespread distribution of unconventional oil and gas (UO&G) wells and other facilities in the United States potentially exposes millions of people to air and water pollutants, including known or suspected carcinogens. Childhood leukemia is a particular concern because of the disease severity, vulnerable population, and short disease latency. A comprehensive review of carcinogens and leukemogens associated with UO&G development is not available and could inform future exposure monitoring studies and human health assessments. The objective of this analysis was to assess the evidence of carcinogenicity of water contaminants and air pollutants related to UO&G development. We obtained a list of 1177 chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluids and wastewater from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and constructed a list of 143 UO&G-related air pollutants through a review of scientific papers published through 2015 using PubMed and ProQuest databases. We assessed carcinogenicity and evidence of increased risk for leukemia/lymphoma of these chemicals using International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) monographs. The majority of compounds (>80%) were not evaluated by IARC and therefore could not be reviewed. Of the 111 potential water contaminants and 29 potential air pollutants evaluated by IARC (119 unique compounds), 49 water and 20 air pollutants were known, probable, or possible human carcinogens (55 unique compounds). A total of 17 water and 11 air pollutants (20 unique compounds) had evidence of increased risk for leukemia/lymphoma, including benzene, 1,3-butadiene, cadmium, diesel exhaust, and several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Though information on the carcinogenicity of compounds associated with UO&G development was limited, our assessment identified 20 known or suspected carcinogens that could be measured in future studies to advance exposure and risk assessments of cancer-causing agents. Our findings support the need for investigation into the relationship between UO&G development and risk of cancer in general and childhood leukemia in particular.

Concepts: Cancer, Assessment, Leukemia, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, Benzene, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Carcinogen, International Agency for Research on Cancer


Classification schemes for carcinogenicity based solely on hazard-identification such as the IARC monograph process and the UN system adopted in the EU have become outmoded. They are based on a concept developed in the 1970s that chemicals could be divided into two classes: carcinogens and non-carcinogens. Categorization in this way places into the same category chemicals and agents with widely differing potencies and modes of action. This is how eating processed meat can fall into the same category as sulfur mustard gas. Approaches based on hazard and risk characterization present an integrated and balanced picture of hazard, dose response and exposure and allow informed risk management decisions to be taken. Because a risk-based decision framework fully considers hazard in the context of dose, potency, and exposure the unintended downsides of a hazard only approach are avoided, e.g., health scares, unnecessary economic costs, loss of beneficial products, adoption of strategies with greater health costs, and the diversion of public funds into unnecessary research. An initiative to agree upon a standardized, internationally acceptable methodology for carcinogen assessment is needed now. The approach should incorporate principles and concepts of existing international consensus-based frameworks including the WHO IPCS mode of action framework.

Concepts: Decision making, Risk, Benzene, Carcinogen, Sulfur mustard, Chemical Weapons Convention, Chemical warfare, International Agency for Research on Cancer


Cancer cells accommodate multiple genetic and epigenetic alterations that initially activate intrinsic (cell-autonomous) and extrinsic (immune-mediated) oncosuppressive mechanisms. Only once these barriers to oncogenesis have been overcome can malignant growth proceed unrestrained. Tetraploidization can contribute to oncogenesis because hyperploid cells are genomically unstable. We report that hyperploid cancer cells become immunogenic because of a constitutive endoplasmic reticulum stress response resulting in the aberrant cell surface exposure of calreticulin. Hyperploid, calreticulin-exposing cancer cells readily proliferated in immunodeficient mice and conserved their increased DNA content. In contrast, hyperploid cells injected into immunocompetent mice generated tumors only after a delay, and such tumors exhibited reduced DNA content, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and calreticulin exposure. Our results unveil an immunosurveillance system that imposes immunoselection against hyperploidy in carcinogen- and oncogene-induced cancers.

Concepts: Gene expression, Cancer, Oncology, Endoplasmic reticulum, Neoplasm, Leukemia, DNA replication, Carcinogen


Most reports have shown that PAH-related DNA adducts are positively correlated with the smoking status of oral cancer patients. However, these reports did not focus on a specific carcinogen in cigarette smoke. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the role of the BPDE (7,8-dihydroxy-anti-9,10-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo[a]pyrene)-DNA adduct in the development of oral cancer in Taiwanese patients.

Concepts: DNA, Oncology, Tobacco smoking, Cigarette, Cigar, Carcinogen, Benzo(a)pyrene, DNA adduct


The synthesis of pharmaceutical products often involves the use of reactive starting materials and intermediates. Low levels may be present in the final product as impurities and of particular concern are impurities that have mutagenic and carcinogenic potential. Regulatory guidance documents provide a general framework to minimise human exposure to these impurities; however, compound-specific recommendations are limited. Our practical experience with 11 pharmaceutical impurities is presented. The genotoxicity and carcinogenicity data are summarised and the approach used to derive an acceptable daily intake (ADI) is described for each chemical. We have highlighted the considerations and challenges associated with calculating ADIs based on available carcinogenicity data. This may provide a useful reference to others in pharmaceutical industry regarding impurity control where the weight of evidence indicates the chemical is a mutagenic carcinogen.

Concepts: DNA, Cancer, Benzene, Carcinogen, Mutagen, Benzo(a)pyrene, Carcinogens