A common class of chemicals, aldehydes, found everywhere from car exhausts, smoke, building materials and furniture to cosmetics and shampoos could increase cancer risk because of their ability to break down the repair mechanisms that prevent faults in our genes, according to a study published recently in the journal Cell.
New research led by Professor Ashok Venkitaraman, Director of the MRC Cancer Unit, has used genetically-engineered human cells and cells from patients bearing a faulty copy of the breast cancer gene BRCA2 to identify the mechanism by which exposure to aldehydes could promote cancer.
Damage to our DNA, which arises frequently as cells in our bodies divide, can lead to the development of cancers, but our body has its own defence mechanism that helps repair this damage. However, Professor Venkitaraman and colleagues found that aldehyde exposure breaks down this defence mechanisms even in normal healthy cells, but people who have inherited a faulty copy of BRCA2 are particularly sensitive to such damage.
“Our study shows how chemicals to which we are increasingly exposed in our day-to-day lives may increase the risk of diseases like cancer and why some people are particularly sensitive to the cancer-causing effects of these chemicals,” says Professor Venkitaraman. “An important implication of our work is that it may be aldehyde exposure that triggers cancer susceptibility in people who inherit one faulty copy of the BRCA2 gene. This may help us in future to prevent or treat cancer in such people.” Read more…