Tanning beds, asbestos and tobacco are what come to mind when it comes to carcinogens. But what about cobalt or HIV?
Health officials out of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have added seven new agents to its list of carcinogens. The additions include five viruses, an industrial chemical and a metal.
“The listings in this report, particularly the viruses, bring attention to the important role that prevention can play in reducing the world’s cancer burden. There are also things people can do to reduce their exposure to cobalt and TCE,” Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the U.S. National Toxicology Program, said.
She said 12 per cent of human cancers worldwide may be attributed to viruses – these five new viruses classified as carcinogens have no vaccines available.
The updated list includes these seven new agents:
- Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1): Those living with HIV have a weakened immune system that could increase a person’s risk of getting several cancers caused by other viruses, such as Hodgkin lymphoma or Kaposi sarcoma. The health department says HIV also increases risk of other types of cancers, such as skin, eye and possibly lung cancer.
- Human T-cell lymphomatic virus type 1 (HTLV-1): This virus could be tied to causing adult T-cell leukemia-lymphoma, a rare cancer that infects the body’s own T cells.
- Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): In clinical studies, EBV could lead to four types of lymphoma and even some types of stomach cancer.
- Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV): The department says there is “sufficient” evidence tying KSVH to several cancers, and two rare lymphomas. KSHV is a herpes virus transmitted from person-to-person primarily through saliva, but it can also spread through sex, blood and from infected mother to child.
- Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV): MCV is a common virus that lives on the skin but it rarely causes symptoms or leads to cancer. It has been tied to Merkel cell carcinoma, though.
- Industrial solvent: Trichloroethylene (TCE): This chemical is a “known human carcinogen” on the list. Its primary use is to make hydrofluorocarbon chemicals.
- Metal: Cobalt and cobalt compounds that release cobalt ions in vivo: Cobalt is a naturally occurring element used to make things, such as military and industrial equipment and rechargeable batteries. The highest exposures occur in the workplace.
But keep in mind – just because an agent is classified as a cancer hazard, it doesn’t mean these items equate to definitely developing cancer.
There are other factors at play, too: a person’s susceptibility to a substance, amount and duration of exposure, a weakened immune system, for example.
Read the full report.