Longstanding concerns about the combined and additive effects of everyday chemicals prompted the organization Getting to Know Cancer to put the study together, involving a global task force of 174 scientists from 28 countries that evaluated the link between mixtures of frequently used chemicals and the development of cancer.  This is the first study of its kind that investigated cancer causing pathways of common chemicals otherwise not known to be carcinogenic (i.e., cancer causing).

The study selected 85 that were previously not believed to be carcinogenic, and found 50 supported key cancer-related mechanisms at levels found in the environment today.

Another 13 had a threshold dose beyond which they started having cancer generating effects. Put together, these dangerous chemicals made up nearly three quarters (74%) of the chemicals studied. The remaining 22 chemicals were not found to have any known effects.

The findings indicate it is possible the combined effect of many of these chemicals working simultaneously may further enhance the risk of cancers developing.

According to cancer biologist, Dr. Hemad Yasaei From London’s Brunel University, “This research backs up the idea that chemicals not considered harmful by themselves are combining and accumulating in our bodies to trigger cancer and might lie behind the global cancer epidemic we are witnessing.  We urgently need to focus more resources to research the effect of low dose exposure to mixtures of chemical sin the food we eat, air we breathe and water we drink.”

While Lancaster University Professor Frances Martin noted, “Despite a rising incidence of many cancers, far too little research has been invested into examining the pivotal role of environmental causative agents. This world team of researchers refocuses our attention on this under-researched area.”

In light of the compelling findings the taskforce called for an increased emphasis on and support for research into low dose exposures to mixtures of environmental chemicals.  Current research estimates chemicals could be responsible for as many as one in five cancers.  With the human population routinely exposed to thousands of chemicals, the effects need to be understood to reduce the incidence of cancer globally.