Arecent study has revealed a concerning connection between the most prevalent type of liver cancer and some man-made chemicals found in industrial items, often known as “forever chemicals.”
It is reportedly the first study in humans to precisely relate liver cancer to “forever chemical” exposure. The term “forever chemicals” refer to polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFAS), which can last in the environment for decades and have the potential to resist disintegration. They cause air pollution and can harm the organ tissues in exposed humans and animals, CTV News reported.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFAS were first introduced in the 1930s as a revolutionary material used in the development of nonstick cookware like Teflon. They were quickly adapted to all kinds of products and packaging, from construction materials to cosmetics, that benefit from their liquid- and fire-resistant properties, New York Post reported.
In the current study, published in JHEP Reports, researchers analyzed the Multiethnic Cohort Study database, which contains data from a study of over 200,000 inhabitants of Hawaii and Los Angeles. The dataset was narrowed down to 100 participants and 50 of them suffered from liver cancer or nonviral hepatocellular carcinoma. Researchers searched for remnants of “forever” molecules in their blood and tissue samples before their diagnosis.
It showed the participants were exposed to a variety of PFAS, with perfluorooctane sulfate (PFOS) being the most prevalent one. In fact, compared to those with the least exposure to PFOS, those in the top 10% of exposure had a 4.5-fold increased risk of developing liver cancer.
PFAS compounds are used in a wide range of products. But recent findings have determined many adverse effects of PFAS, from hypothyroidism to low birth weight, according to New Atlas.
The lack of appropriate samples is partly the reason why there have been fewer human studies, according to research author Veronica Wendy Setiawan.
“When you are looking at an environmental exposure, you need samples from well before a diagnosis because it takes time for cancer to develop,” Setiawan said.
The research team also highlighted the potential effects of PFOS on the normal functioning of the liver. After analyzing the samples, they discovered evidence suggesting that PFOS may affect the liver’s natural processes for metabolizing glucose, bile acids and branched-chain amino acids.
A consequent condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is caused by the accumulation of more fat in the liver when there is disruption of normal metabolic processes.
Those with NAFLD have a substantially higher risk of acquiring liver cancer. By 2030, 30% of adults in the U.S. are expected to be impacted by NAFLD, Medical Express reported.