Mold has been a thorn in humanity's side for centuries. It has been known to cause serious health problems when ingested or inhaled. Yet recent discoveries have shown that it also has connections to one of man’s most deadly diseases: cancer. This article will explore the links between mold and cancer.
Mold can be classified as microscopic fungi with thousands of different species. There are some molds such as slime and water that aren’t technically fungi but operate in the same manner. It reproduces through spores that can survive in the harshest of environments. Spores can become airborne until they land in their desired climates and begin to grow. Molds have been known to exist in Antarctica, despite the extremely cold temperatures. Most people cannot see mold until they reproduce in such numbers that they form colonies. People may see these colonies as hairy or furry growths alongside the surfaces of food or other objects. Mold may exist in many places and, in small quantities, do not present a danger. But when mold gathers into colonies in schools, homes or workplaces, a number of health issues can arise. Molds are known to cause respiratory problems, especially for people with preexisting conditions. Toxic molds known as mycotoxins have been linked to neurological problems that can turn fatal.
Aflatoxin is a particular byproduct of mold that has been directly linked to cancer. It typically colonizes on various grains such as corn or wheat, thriving in high moisture conditions and high temperatures. In October 2007, Aflatoxin was found on recently harvested corn in Iowa and South Dakota. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers 20 parts per billion a safe level, the Aflatoxin discovered in those fields numbered from 20 parts to as high as 600 parts per billion.
Some molds have been linked to specific cancers. Dr. Gary Shwartz, a cancer researcher from Wake Forest University, claims that testicular cancer can be caused by a mold known as Ochratoxin A. It starts when a fetus or infant is exposed to Ochratoxin A. The mold goes from the placenta to the child and latches onto his testicular DNA and remains dormant. When he reaches puberty, Ochratoxin A begins to affect testicular shape.
Breast cancer may also have mold links. Aflatoxin has been found inside cancer-infected breast tissues in Southeast Asia. Other mycotoxins such as cyclosporin have also been linked to breast cancer. Cyclosporin was actually used to form drugs to treat renal cancer but was found to cause breast cancer in 18 of 598 patients studied, according to the Mold Help website.
Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that affects blood plasma. It is largely regarded as incurable since it also affects bone marrow cells that produce antibodies that would normally fight cancer. Yet the Mayo Clinic reported in 2007 that a wood mold by-product known as chaetocin killed multiple myeloma cells in tested patients. It killed them by causing oxidative stress and rapid accumulation inside the cells.