Hot dogs, sausages, and corned beef now have something in common with asbestos, benzene, and ionizing radiation.  They are in the same class of cancer-causing substances, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).  The organization’s October 26, 2015 press release states that a group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme classified red meat as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (IARC Group 2A), and processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” (IARC Group 1).  The group made the classifications after “thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature” and finding an association between consumption of red meat and colorectal cancer, and an increased risk of colorectal cancer with each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily.
Continue Reading A Meaty Issue: Do Red and Processed Meats Cause Cancer?

Researchers are continuing to investigate how the shape and size of carbon nanotubes (CNT) affect the pulmonary systems of mice over time.  To answer the question, researchers are depositing CNT of varying sizes, length, and thickness into the lungs of mice and assessing the cellular interactions at varying intervals.  Several recent papers have been published suggesting that the scientific community is progressing toward some answers.
Continue Reading The Shape and Size of Carbon Nanotubes Impact the Potential Biological Response

Most recent news items about mesothelioma focus on asbestos litigation and lawyer advertising for clients to file cases, bankruptcy trust claims, or both.  A recent news story, however, focuses on a potential treatment option for patients with mesothelioma.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently granted a drug in development to treat malignant pleural mesothelioma “orphan drug” designation.  The FDA’s Office of Orphan Products Development grants “orphan drug” designation to some new drugs that may be effective at treating diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 Americans.  Orphan drug status provides incentives to companies to develop drugs that might otherwise be unprofitable, and a company can use the exclusivity to develop drugs that anyone else might develop but do not have a large affected population.  The FDA’s designation gives drug creators grant funding, tax credits for certain research, a waiver of the Biologics License Application user fee, and the potential for marketing exclusivity in the United States for seven years. 
Continue Reading New Mesothelioma Drug Shows Promising Results

Imagine being able to accurately detect the existence and type of cancer at its earliest stages by a simple blood test.  Thanks to nanotechnology, that may be possible in the future.  In the December 2014 issue of Nature Nanotechnology, researchers affiliated with the Universidade de Sao Paulo and the IMM-Instituto de Microelectronica de Madrid report on their work with a biosensor using nanotechnology that “allows for ultralow concentrations of cancer biomarkers to be detected in blood.”
Continue Reading Nanotechnology and the Early Detection of Cancer

E-cigarettes continue to come under fire from numerous groups, as shown by several events in the last week. Scientists from Portland State University, in a January 22 letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, contend that e-cigarette use may carry a risk of cancer 5 to 15 times greater than the risk associated with traditional cigarettes. That conclusion is based on data showing e-cigarette vapers may inhale formaldehyde-releasing agents. The researchers conceded that “[h]ow formaldehyde-releasing agents behave in the respiratory tract is unknown.” However, they estimated a vaper’s daily exposure to formaldehyde could be more than 4.5 times that of a pack-a-day cigarette smoker. This study relates exclusively to e-cigarettes used on high voltage settings – at lower voltages, the scientists detected no formaldehyde.  And the study extrapolated the results from a single test without considering real-world vaping habits, which have not been studied well to date.

Continue Reading Cancer Concerns, Proposed New Regulations Dog E-Cigarette Industry

According to a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published by Johns Hopkins University researchers, the majority of human cancers may be caused by the random genetic mutations that arise from normal DNA replication.  Put more bluntly, the research suggests that the “bad luck” of random mutations plays a predominant role in causing a majority of cancers.  The article, “Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions,” was published in the 2 January 2015 edition of Science.  The study has caused quite a stir (see e.g., NY Times, CBS News, and 2020 Science blog) by suggesting that the majority of cancers are caused by normal cellular processes and cannot necessarily be “blamed” on something, or someone.
Continue Reading New Study Suggests Need For Rethinking Cancer Causation

Are synthetic turf playing fields exposing children to unsafe levels of harmful chemicals putting them at risk of illness and disease?  That is a question that has percolated over the last several years, and one that received high-profile media attention in 2014.  The issue centers around the possible connection between crumb rubber infill – little black pellets of ground up rubber – and potential exposure to chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and arsenic.  The rubber provides for a softer surface, but some are questioning whether the chemicals in the crumb rubber cause unsafe exposures to chemicals.

In late 2014 NBC News reported on concerns being raised about the potential health effects of children playing on crumb rubber infilled artificial turf. Other news outlets also published pieces on the subject on in 2014 as well (see here and here).
Continue Reading Groups Debate the Health Effects of Crumb Rubber Infill for Artificial Turf

A new FDA study finds that cigar smokers have higher levels of known or suspected carcinogens in their blood and urine than people who do not use tobacco products.  The study is significant because there have been few studies looking at the toxic constituents of cigar smoke and their intake in the body.  It has long been thought that cigar smoking was “safer” than cigarette smoking, but this new study raises more questions about the health consequences of cigar use.

The study, Biomarkers of Exposure among U.S. Cigar Smokers: An Analysis of 1999–2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Data, was conducted by Office of Science, Center for Tobacco Products, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland. The study reported that not only do cigar smokers have higher levels of cotinine, NNAL, cadmium, and lead in their system than nonusers, but individuals exposed only to second-hand cigar smoke had elevated levels as well.
Continue Reading Cigar Smoke Poses More Risk Than Previously Thought

New research suggests that nanoparticles may be effectively used to interfere with the expression of specific genes and provide targeted disease treatment.  A study published in Nature Nanotechnology reports on promising developments involving the use of nanoparticles in gene therapy.   Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Harvard Medical School, University of Colorado, and Technion Israel Institute of Technology published the study titled In vivo endothelial siRNA delivery using polymeric nanoparticles with low molecular weight. Nature Nanotechnology 9, 648–655 (2014).
Continue Reading Nanoparticles May Effectively Treat Diseases With Cell-Specific Therapy

Are carbon nanotubes helping to cause cancer, cure cancer, both, or neither?  Several years ago, carbon nanotubes shot to mainstream consciousness in large part due to concerns that they may present health risks similar to asbestos fibers.  A 2010 study published in The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that carbon nanotubes can induce apoptosis, DNA damage, and initiate biological responses.  In 2010, and again in 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a Current Intelligence Bulletin recommending exposure limits for carbon nanotubes and carbon nanofibers based on the concerns over possible adverse health effects.   A 2013 study, however, suggested that concerns about the similarities of bio-reactivity and pathogenicity between asbestos fibers and carbon nanotubes may be alleviated through modification of length and chemical modification of the nanotube surface.
Continue Reading Carbon Nanotubes and Cancer: Potential Cause or Cure?