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Cancer and Mold Toxins:
Another Way Indoor Mold Harms Humans

Dr. Wang and Groopman from the Environmental Health Sciences Department at Johns Hopkins, published a useful article on the effects of mold toxins on DNA published in Mutation Research -- a leading cancer journal. They said clearly:

Mycotoxins are toxic fungal metabolites which are structurally diverse, common contaminants of the ingredients of animal feed and human food. To date, mycotoxins with carcinogenic potency in experimental animal models include aflatoxins, sterigmatocystin, ochratoxin, fumonisins, zearalenone, and some Penicillium toxins. Most of these carcinogenic mycotoxins are genotoxic agents with the exception of fumonisins, which is currently believed to act by disrupting the signal transduction pathways of the target cells. Aflatoxin B1 [is] a category I known human carcinogen and the most potent genotoxic agent, is mutagenic in many model systems and produces chromosomal aberrations, micronuclei, sister chromatid exchange, unscheduled DNA synthesis, and chromosomal strand breaks, as well as forms adducts in rodent and human cells....More strikingly, the relationship between aflatoxin exposure and development of human hepatocellular carcinoma ... was demonstrated by [other ] studies...

Mutat Res. 1999 Mar 8;424(1-2):167-81.

Aflatoxin Found In Human Breast Cancer Tissue

Harrison et al. (1993) examined human breast cancer tissue for evidence of the presence of aflatoxin, a recognized potent carcinogenic mycotoxin. The researchers examined human DNA from a variety of tissues and organs to identify and quantify aflatoxin DNA-adducts. Such adducts are considered to be proof of the mycotoxin's presence in a particular tissue. (These researchers had already proved the value of this method in the detection of aflatoxin-DNA adducts in tissue from a case of acute aflatoxin poisoning in Southeast Asia.)

DNA from normal and tumorous tissue obtained from patients with cancer of the breast was examined. Tumor tissues had higher aflatoxin-adduct levels than did normal tissue from the same individual.

The result of this study is that it verifies the presence of carcinogenic aflatoxin within the cancer tissue and thus implicates aflatoxin as a cause of breast cancer.

Cyclosporin (A Mycotoxin) Causes Breast Cancer In Humans

Cyclosporin is a fungal derived drug. It is classified as a mycotoxin in the mycology literature (Betina [1989]).

  1. Vogt et al. (1990) reported the occurrence of de novo malignant tumors occurring in 598 renal transplant recipients who were immunosupressed with cyclosporin.

    Eighteen of 598 patients receiving their first renal graft along with cyclosporin treatment between 1981 and 1986 developed a malignancy at a mean interval of 33 months. The cyclosporin-induced cancers included breast cancer.
  2. Escribano-Patino et al. (1995) reported the occurrence of breast cancer as a complication of cyclosporin use in their series of kidney transplant recipients.
  3. Penn and First (1986) reported 88 tumors in eighty-seven organ transplant recipients after the use of cyclosporin. Malignancies appeared an average of 14 months after the cyclosporin treatment. There was a surprising frequency of endocrine-related malignancies (ovarian, testicular and breast) among these malignancies.

Aflatoxin Induces Malignant Changes In Human Breast Cells

Eldridge et al. (1992) noted that some environmental chemicals are stored in human breast fat which are documented to be rodent mammary carcinogens. These researchers stressed the importance of determining the cancer potential of environmental agents in this key target tissue.

An assay was developed for detecting cancer potential using cultures of normal human breast epithelial cells derived from 5 different women. A positive response was observed with aflatoxin.

The conclusion of this study was that aflatoxin causes normal human breast cells to become cancerous.

Could Moldy Cheese Causes Breast Cancer?

One sample study is by Le et al. (1986), in a French case-control study of 1,010 breast cancer cases and 1,950 controls with nonmalignant diseases, found that breast cancer was found to be associated with increased frequency of mold-fermented cheese consumption.

Oxalic Acid (A Mycotoxin) Found In Breast Cancer Lesions

Going et al. (1990) found that weddellite (calcium oxalate) crystals are present in calcifications found in the breast tissue of patients with breast cancer. Calcium oxalate crystals are formed when calcium binds with oxalic acid. In human and animal systems, this is a protective process which considerably reduces the severe toxicity of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is a powerful corrosive agent and oxalate salts are widely used for their cleaning and bleaching properties!

Oxalic acid happens to be a mycotoxin which can be produced by a number of different fungal species. Some fungi produce such large amounts of oxalic acid that they are used for commercial production of the chemical.

Aspergillus niger fungal infection in human lungs produces large amounts of oxalic acid which is extremely toxic to the blood vessels and which may cause fatal pulmonary hemorrhages. Consequently, oxalic acid (calcium oxalate crystals) in the sputum or lung specimens of patients is also an indication of an Aspergillus infection of the lung. These calcium oxalate crystals are the same as the calcium oxalate found in breast cancers.

The presence of oxalates in the breast is indicative of the presence of fungi interwoven within the stages of breast cancer development. Since humans do not make oxalic acid themselves, this is an appropriate conclusion.

Breast Oxalate Calcifications In Mammograms

Thomas et al. (1993) examined calcifications found in breast mammograms and evaluated their relationship to the risk of subsequent breast cancer. The presence, morphology, and distribution of calcifications visualized on baseline mammograms of 686 women who developed breast cancer over a 7- to 10-year follow-up period were compared with those of 1,357 controls who remained cancer free. It was found that there was a significant correlation between such calcifications and subsequent development of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Calcifications Decrease With Tamoxifen (Antifungal) Treatment

Taylor and Georgian-Smith (1994) reported the regression of breast cancer in four patients who had been treated with tamoxifen. The patients were closely monitored with physical examination and mammography for a minimum of 2 years.

In all cases, the features of malignancy which were seen on mammograms regressed. These results were documented by a decrease in the number of calcifications and in the size of spiculated masses. These results suggest that these breast calcifications are dynamic in nature, being able to regress as effective treatment reduces the cancer.


The presence of oxalate calcifications in the breasts of virtually every patient with breast cancer, and their subsequent regression as a result of treatment with the antifungal agent tamoxifen, points to the strong possibility that there is a fungal role in this cancer. There have even been reports of fungal cells growing out of cancer cells. The existence of a viable fungal sub-forms--with its DNA co-mixed with a human's own DNA--could well explain the bizarre appearance of the DNA in cancer cells. Support for such a "science fiction" type scenario is found in the observation that a lectin staining procedure, used to find "invisible" fungi in tissue specimens, happens to identify breast cancer cells. Normal cells do not stain with these same lectin staining procedures.

The lectin stain is also taken up by strange multinucleated giant cells which suggests that these cells may, in fact, be fungal cells. This could explain the presence of oxalates in breast cancer tissue, a metabolite produced by fungi and not by humans. It might also help explain how breast cancer is caused by a number of fungal-fermented foods, particularly those made with Baker's or Brewer's Yeast (both being Saccharomyces cerevisiae), known producers of uric acid which degrades to oxalic acid (Costantini [1989]).

Baker's yeast is used to make bread, a documented cause of breast cancer in Japanese women. Brewer's yeast is used to make many alcoholic beverages, all of which are known to cause breast cancer in every country where the connection has been investigated, a fact which is well documented. Other research some feel beer and wine mycotoxins increase breast cancer above chance.

T-2 Toxin Causes Breast Tumors

Schoental et al. (1979) reported that breast cancers were induced in rats which were dosed with T-2 Toxin.

T-2 Toxin is a Fusarium toxin frequently found in the human food chain. The fact that T-2 Toxin induced breast cancer in an animal model is most significant, for this cancer occurs so often in humans.

Furthermore, antibodies against Fusarium fungi are frequently found in human blood. These fungi and their toxins are the most frequently encountered contaminants found in animal feed and human foods. See also Saito (1971) and Corrado (1971), both of whom induced breast cancer in mice using moldy rice and its extracts.

Ochratoxin Causes Breast Tumors

Fibroadenomas in the mammary gland were found in over half of a group of female mice which were dosed with ochratoxin (Boorman [1988]). In humans, fibroadenoma is a documented risk factor for breast cancer (Dupont et al. [1994]).

Ochratoxin Causes Breast Fibroadenomas

Huff (1991) investigated the carcinogenicity of ochratoxin, a naturally occurring mycotoxin of the fungal genera Aspergillus and Penicillium, which was studied in three strains of mice and in one strain of rats.

It was found that fibroadenomas of the mammary glands were induced by ochratoxin administration. In humans, fibroadenoma is a documented long-term risk factor for breast cancer (Dupont et al. [1994]).

Penicillic Acid/Patulin Cause Breast Adenomas And Breast Sarcomas

Penicillic acid was found to induce mammary adenomas, as well as local sarcomas and fibrosarcomas in mice and rats. Patulin was also reported to cause mammary adenomas in mice and rats (Dickens and Jones [1965], Dickens [1967]). See also Ciegler et al. (1971).

Verrucarin Induced Breast Tumors

Jodczyk (1984) was able to induce breast tumors in mice by exposing them to a derivative of the mycotoxin verrucarin E.

Moldy Rice Extract Causes Breast Cancer

Mammary cancers (breast cancers) were induced by feeding an alcohol extract of moldy rice to animals (Corrado [1971]). See also Saito (1971).

This is hardly a complete presentation of this topic, but it is merely offered to allow reflection on the troubling action of some mycotoxins.

I would like to thank the editorial research of three World Health Organization Scholars for the sample references above:

Head, World Health Organization (WHO)
Collaborating Center For Mycotoxins In Food

Medical Director, World Health Organization (WHO)
Collaborating Center For Mycotoxins in Food

LARS 1. QVICK, M.D., Ph.D.
Co-Medical Director, World Health Organization (WHO)
Collaborating Center For Mycotoxins In Food



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