7 New Substances Added to Annual Report on Carcinogens

Posted 12/07/2016 | By HealthCorps

The Department of Health and Human Services’ 14th Report on Carcinogens has added five viruses, one chemical and one metallic agent to the yearly list. The report now contains 248 listings that are considered “cancer hazards.”  A cancer hazard means that the substance or virus may not directly be the cause of the cancer.  A susceptible individual exposed to one of these substances may be at higher risk of then developing a particular cancer. 

TCE or trichloroethylene is the newest chemical added to the list, and cobalt is the metallic element that also has been added.  Since 12% of cancers worldwide are attributed to viruses, the five new viruses offer an opportunity for researchers to discover ways to limit these viruses by developing vaccines or other methods to prevent humans from being infected by these viruses.  Lowering rates of these viral infections can help to directly lower the risk of developing certain cancers.  Obviously, there are also ways to avoid exposure to TCE and cobalt.

TCE is an industrial solvent.  It has been on the list since 2000 with exposures suggesting a “possible link to kidney cancer.”  It’s now been upgraded to known carcinogen.  TCE can be released into air, water and soil near locations where it’s used as a metal degreasing agent.  Obviously, individuals who work with the substance have a higher risk of direct exposure.

Cobalt exposure typically occurs at a work site where they have military or industrial equipment, or rechargeable batteries.  It can also occur when surgical implants containing the substance “fail” and allow cobalt to leech out into a person’s body.  It is a suspected carcinogen based on animal studies.

The five new viruses that have been added to the report are classified as “known to be a human carcinogen.”  They have been linked to more than 20 different types of cancer.  They include:

HIV-1 or human immunodeficiency virus type 1 is spread through sexual activity, infected drug needles, from mother to child during pregnancy and through infected breast milk.  HIV attacks the body’s immune system and can eventually cause AIDS.  The virus is associated with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma and possibly liver and oral cancer.

HTLV-1 or human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 is a virus spread through breastfeeding, sharing needles or syringes with infected individuals, or unprotected sexual activity.  It is associated with a heightened risk of developing T-cell leukemia-lymphoma, a rare cancer that infects the body’s T cells, white blood cells known as CD4 T cells which help to fight off infections.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) also called the “kissing disease” because it can be transmitted that way.  It passes via saliva from one individual to another.  It usually resolves, but it can also instigate mononucleosis, or mono as it’s sometimes called.  This virus, if it remains in your system, is linked to risk of four types of lymphoma – Burkitt, Hodgkin, immune-suppression-related non-Hodgkin and nasal type extranodal NK/T-cell.

Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is a herpesvirus that can be transmitted person-to-person primarily through saliva, but also through sexual contact or through the blood from mother to child.  It’s linked to several cancers including two rare lymphomas.

Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) is a common virus that actually lives on human skin.  Healthy people shed the virus.  In cases where normal shedding does not occur, or when someone susceptible is exposed to the virus, it can cause cancer, specifically Merkel cell carcinoma.

There is a relatively new and free app for smartphones called Think Dirty which allows you to check skincare and makeup products for known or suspected carcinogens.  Just download the app and type in any item you currently use or want to buy.  It will give it a rating (the lower the number the better) and share the worrisome ingredients which can be suspected carcinogens or hormone disruptors.  The app continues to add to its database daily.

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