PFC-Cancer Link Disputed

Study: PFCs in Common Household Items Don’t Raise Cancer Risk

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 07, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

April 7, 2009 -- A class of chemicals known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) found in common household items do not appear to raise the risk of several types of cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers found that levels of these chemicals in human blood were not associated with the risk of prostate, bladder, pancreatic, or liver cancer.

The safety of two types of PFCs, called PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoate), has recently been called into question. The chemicals are used to make items such as nonstick cookware, carpet, breathable clothing, and food containers.

Researchers say high concentrations of the chemicals in the blood of animals have been associated with cancer, but researchers say the human cancer risk is still unclear.

A recent study in the journal Human Reproduction also showed that the higher concentrations of these chemicals in women’s blood, the more likely the women were to take more than 12 months to get pregnant.

Cancer Link Disputed

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at blood plasma levels of both chemicals in 57,053 Danish-born people who were cancer-free when the study began in 1993-1997; they were followed until July 2006.

During the study period, 713 cases of prostate cancer, 332 cases of bladder cancer, 128 cases of pancreatic cancer, and 67 cases of liver cancer were diagnosed. Researchers compared blood levels of perfluorinated chemicals in those diagnosed with cancer to a group of 772 healthy people.

The results showed no clear association between the level of perfluorinated chemicals and the risk of any of the four types of cancer studied.

"Additional research is warranted to investigate this relationship further in other cohorts, because this is, to our knowledge, the first study on perfluorinated chemicals and risk for cancer in a general population," researcher Kirsten T. Eriksen of the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen, says in a news release.

WebMD Health News



Eriksen, K. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, April 2009; vol 101: pp 605-609.

News release, Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

WebMD Health News: "Common Chemicals May Affect Fertility."

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