Association of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and cancers other than lung cancer


There is increasing recognition in the role of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the etiology of various cancers. Strong mechanistic evidence and carcinogenicity in several animal species has been reported for benzo[a]pyrene, a prototype PAH. Based on this mechanistic evidence and increased risk of lung and skin cancers in several occupations with heavy exposure to PAHs, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified benzo[a]pyrene and those occupations as carcinogenic to human. However, although an association between PAHs and some other cancers, e.g. urinary bladder and esophageal cancers, has been suggested, the association between PAHs and cancer in organs other than lung and skin is not well-established.

In fact, few observational studies have studied the association between PAHs and cancer. One of the main reasons for this shortcoming could be that few accurate methods were available to measure the exposure to PAHs in epidemiological studies. However, during the past 1-2 decades translational studies have validated several biomarkers that could be feasibly applied in large studies as surrogates for exposure to PAHs and their internal dose, e.g. PAH metabolites in urine, bulky DNA adducts, and immunohistochemistry staining of PAHs in tissue. Research on introducing and validating new methods is ongoing. Some other growing areas of research on the association between PAHs and cancer are the role of the route of exposure, the chemical composition of PAH mixtures, the presence of co-exposures, and genetic susceptibility. Furthermore, with increasing knowledge about sources of PAHs other than smoking, including foods and indoor and outdoor air pollution, the association between exposure to PAHs from these sources and health outcomes (including cancer) at the general population level has appeared as a major research topic.

A systematic review and call for articles on the topic of PAHs in cancers other than lung (for which the association is well-established) could increase our knowledge of a potentially common risk factor to several cancer types and of PAH-related cancer burden and shed light on mechanisms implicated in etiology of potentially PAH-related cancers. The original articles may include basic, mechanistic, and translational research and animal and observational human studies. High-quality cross sectional studies (e.g. on PAH content of the foods with known/suggested association with cancer and on biomarkers of exposure following intake of specific foods or inhalation of polluted air) are also within the scope of this research topic.

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Media Contact:

Kathy Andrews
Journal Manager
Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research