Toothpaste and other everyday things that have been linked to cancer

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published October 3, 2018

Key Takeaways

It's a common complaint: "Everything gives you cancer these days." Well, not quite everything. Although the link between antiperspirant and cancer has been discredited, some new associations between cancer and ordinary things have been identified—or at least deemed to be worthy of further investigation. Take a look at some of the latest research news.

Toothpaste ingredient tied to colon cancer

Triclosan is a common antibacterial and antifungal agent used in many consumer products, including toothpastes, detergents, soaps, and mouthwashes. Lately, its use has become controversial. A recent study in mice found that even small doses of triclosan prompted inflammation of the colon, worsened symptoms of colitis, and promoted colitis-associated tumor growth. These findings indicate an urgent need to further evaluate the impact of triclosan exposure on human gut health, and also to potentially update policies for regulating it, researchers concluded. Find out more about how triclosan may increase colon cancer cells.

Arthritis supplement speeds the growth of melanoma tumors?

Researchers have found that chondroitin, a popular dietary supplement used to relieve osteoarthritis and joint pain, may promote the growth of tumor cells in BRAF V600E-mutation melanoma. About one-half of melanomas have a mutation in the BRAF gene, and V600E is the most common mutation. In a recent study, researchers demonstrated that chondroitin selectively promotes the growth of human melanoma cells that express the BRAF V600E mutation. In people whose precancerous growths contain the BRAF V600E mutation, taking chondroitin supplements may potentially accelerate the growth of those cells, researchers suggested. They also speculated that chondroitin could raise the risk of relapse in people whose cancer is V600E-positive. Read what else the researchers discovered about chondroitin and cancer.

'Ultra-processed' foods linked to rise in cancer risk

In a large observational study of middle-aged adults, investigators found that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods—such as soda and sugary drinks, instant noodles, packaged snacks, and some reconstituted meats—may be linked to a proportional rise in cancer risk. They determined that for every 10% rise in the proportion of ultra-processed foods consumed, there was a 12% higher risk of cancer, with a significant increase in breast cancer risk. However, the study findings revealed no significant link between cancer and less processed foods, and a lower risk of overall cancer and breast cancer with intake of minimally processed and fresh foods. The researchers acknowledged that their findings offer only initial insight into a possible link between ultra-processed foods and cancer, and that their research requires replication and further refinement. Read on for additional examples of ultra-processed and minimally processed foods.

Too much TV may raise risk of colorectal cancer

Men who watched TV for at least 4 hours per day were found to have a 35% greater risk of colorectal cancer than men who watched TV for 1 hour or less each day, researchers found. In women, however, they observed no such link. On the upside, men who engaged in higher levels of physical activity had a 23% lower risk of developing colon cancer compared with men who had low physical activity levels. Interestingly, computer use was not associated with increased colorectal cancer risk in men. So, why does binge-watching TV seem to raise colorectal cancer risk in men but not in women? See what researchers think makes the difference.

Night-shift work connected to increased risk of cancer in women—especially nurses

In a recent meta-analysis involving more than 3 million participants, experts found that women who work the night shift may be at increased risk for developing common cancers. While long-term night-shift work among women increased the overall risk of cancer by 19%, these workers also had an increased risk of skin (41%), breast (32%), and gastrointestinal (18%) cancers compared with women who didn't perform long-term night-shift work. Researchers also found that the risk of breast cancer increased by 3.3% for every 5 years of night-shift work. "The results of this research suggest the need for health-protection programs for long-term female night-shift workers," one of the study authors said. Of all the occupations analyzed, nurses who worked night shifts had the highest risk of developing breast cancer—a 58% increased risk. Find out why night shift work in women—and nurses in particular—appears to be a risk factor for cancer.

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