Common chemicals called aldehydes linked to cancer

Common chemicals called aldehydes linked to cancer

Professor Ashok Venkitaraman of Cambridge University conducted research into common carcinogens and concluded a host of ‘aldehydes’ commonly found in toiletry, personal care products and around the home are linked to cancer, probably via damaged repair genes; in 2022 the American EPA finally stated Formaldehyde caused cancer.
It has long been established that formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are class A carcinogens – known to cause cancer in humans.  They are listed as such at IARC, the World Health Organisation cancer research institute, and in a lesser form, on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s lists. None the less, Venkitaraman - director of the Medical Research Council Cancer Unit at Cambridge - and his team's research has been criticised by a number of ‘experts’ in various PR releases. 
Venkitaraman’s team found that aldehydes had a DNA damaging effect, and concluded this was extremely worrying given their presence in so many everyday products (1).   
Despite Governments setting 'safe limits', the team said that these chemicals can accumulate and aggregate, rendering safe limits meaningless.  There was particular concern in the research, where people were born with a genetic mutation (e.g. BRCA1 or BRCA2), giving them only one reliable gene. The research concluded that aldehydes were a very real threat to this group.  While BRCA1 and BRCA2 are most often tested for in breast cancer, particularly Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), and in ovaria cancer, they could equally be found in Pacreatic or lung cancers. In the latter cancer, the number of non-smokers developing lung cancer is increasing.
The researchers believed that the aldehydes accumulated beyond safe levels and 'could increase cancer risk because of their ability to break down the repair mechanisms that prevent faults in our genes'.
His points seem well made.  We previously covered a UCLA study which gave back packs to teenagers and followed their lives for 2 weeks.  The back packs had a filtration and collection system.  The researchers were looking for the effects of benzene from petrol fumes in L.A.  and New York.
However, after 2 weeks benzene came only third.  Top was formaldehyde, showing clearly the cumulative effect. Second was dichlorobenzene, found commonly in air fresheners, which has been linked to a number of health issues.
CANCERactive has published various studies and our mailbox has been subjected to abuse on the subject. But in April 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) finally delivered its draft report on Formaldehyde stating that "formaldehyde — a common industrial chemical — can cause multiple cancers involving the head, neck and blood". Not surprisingly the EPA has come in for similar criticism and abuse.
Previously, the EPA had said that Formaldehyde was a probable human carcinogen. The EPA's latest report (2) goes further and links formaldehyde inhalation to nasopharyngeal cancer, impacting the head and neck; sinonasal cancer, involving the nasal cavity or sinuses; and myeloid leukemia, which impacts bone marrow and blood cells. A 60-day moratorium to accept comment then followed.
“I’m really pleased to see this IRIS assessment of formaldehyde — we’ve known formaldehyde is a human carcinogen for years,” Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, told The Hill.  
“Hopefully, this will finally lead to better regulation,” Birnbaum added.
The EPA list sources of Formaldehyde (3) as - 

- Resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard);
- Building materials and insulation;
- Household products such as glues, permanent press fabrics, paints and coatings, lacquers and finishes, and paper products;
- Preservatives used in some medicines, cosmetics and other consumer products such as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners; and
- Fertilizers and pesticides.
 - It is a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and so is also found in:

     - Emissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters; 
     - Cigarette smoke.

Go to: And finally, aspartame is determined to be a possible carcinogen.



1. A class of environmental and endogenous toxins induces BRCA2 haploin sufficiency and genome instability. Tan, SLW et al; Cell; 1 Jun 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.05.010

2. Highly anticipated EPA draft says formaldehyde causes cancer; The Hill;  SHARON UDASIN AND RACHEL FRAZIN - 04/14/22

3. EPA July 2023 - Facts about Formaldehyde


  Approved by the Medical Board.  Click Here



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