Common Chemicals Dramatically Increase Liver Cancer Risk -

Synthetic PFAS chemicals accumulate in the liver

They are water, grease and dirt repellent, chemically and thermally stable and are therefore used in many everyday products - we are talking about a group of synthetic chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). According to a recent study, these substances can accumulate in the liver and thus massively increase the risk of liver cancer.

In a recent study, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (USA) showed that high exposure to PFAS is associated with a risk of up to 4.5 times increase in liver cancer. The results were recently presented in the journal "JHEP Reports".

PFAS in the environment and in consumables

PFAS are found in a wide range of consumer products, including cosmetics, kitchen utensils, paper coatings and textiles. Large amounts have also been found in animal feed and sewage sludge, among other places.

"Eternal Chemicals"

These substances are also known as "eternal chemicals" because the compounds are extremely stable and persist in the environment for generations. If these substances enter the body, they can be detected in the blood.

PFAS has been linked to liver cancer in animal studies

Animal studies have already shown that PFAS accumulate in the liver and increase the risk of liver cancer. "This study builds on previous research findings, but goes even further," says Dr. Jesse Goodrich of the Keck School of Medicine.

"Liver cancer is one of the most serious effects of liver disease and this is the first human study to show that PFAS are linked to this disease", confirms the scientist of the research group.

First evidence of increased risk of liver cancer in humans

The ongoing study at the University of Southern California now shows for the first time that PFAS chemicals are also linked to an increased risk of liver cancer in humans. The researchers analyzed blood and tissue samples taken from residents of Hawaii and Los Angeles as part of a long-term study.

course of the study

The working group compared 50 samples from people who developed liver cancer during the study with 50 samples from participants who did not develop liver cancer. Several types of PFAS chemicals were detected in the subjects' blood.

Study results

The strongest association with liver cancer was with a subset of chemicals called perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). According to the analysis, those with the highest concentrations of PFOS in their blood had a 4.5 times greater risk of developing liver cancer than those with the lowest PFOS levels.

PFOS chemicals interfere with liver metabolism

The researchers were also able to shed light on how PFOS can alter the normal functioning of the liver. Apparently, the chemicals disrupt several metabolic processes, including the normal process of glucose metabolism, bile acid metabolism, and the metabolism of certain amino acids in the liver.

According to the research group, disruption of normal metabolic processes in the liver can lead to fatty accumulation in the liver, a condition known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Dramatic increase in hepatic steatosis

In recent years, a dramatic and unexplained increase in these fatty liver diseases has been recorded worldwide. The presence of NAFLD is associated with a significantly higher risk of liver cancer.

If current trends continue, 30% of all adults in the United States will have fatty liver disease by 2030, scientists warn.

Almost everyone in the United States has PFAS in their blood.

PFAS chemicals have been used since the 1940s. They were first detected in human blood in the 1970s. According to the research team, PFAS are now found in the blood of 98% of all adults in the USA.

"We believe that our work provides important information on the long-term effects of these chemicals on human health, in particular with regard to the way in which they can damage normal liver function", summarizes Professor Dr. Léda Chatzi .

The health risks associated with exposure to PFAS have been increasingly suspected since the 1990s. "This study fills an important gap in our understanding of the real consequences of exposure to these chemicals", concludes the professor. (vb)

Author and source information

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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.


Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


Jesse A Goodrich, Douglas Walker, Leda Chatzi, et al. : Exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in a multiethnic cohort; in: JHEP Reports (2022), hep-reports.euKeck School of Medicine: Synthetic "forever chemical" related to liver cancer (published: 08/08/2022), nature, nuclear Safety and consumer protection: Perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) (accessed: 09.08.2022), bmuv.deUmweltbundesamt: Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances as persistent organic contaminants in the food chain (published in January 2018),

Important note:
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.