We’ve talked extensively about the numerous health effects that have been linked from toxic mold exposure – everything from skin rashes to brain damage. But can toxic mold exposure actually cause cancer? It’s a touchy subject; perhaps why we’ve avoided it for so long. But there are a lot of rumors and sketchy evidence floating around that say mold and exposure to certain mycotoxins can cause cancer. It’s time to separate myth from fact.
Can mold cause cancer? Absolutely, yes. Will having mold in your home give you cancer? That’s a maybe.
Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin produced by Aspergillusspecies of mold. This common mold tends to grow on crops: primarily corn, peanuts, and grains. When we eat enough of these moldy foods, or eat animals that eat them, we can get liver cancer. Studies in Uganda, Swaziland, Thailand, Kenya, Mozambique, and China show a strong positive correlation between aflatoxin levels in food and the occurrence of liver cancer.
But this isn’t news. The 11th National Toxicology Report from the Department of Health and Human Services lists aflatoxins as one of the most potent causes of mold known to man. For this reason, the FDA has established a maximum allowable level of total aflatoxin in food commodities of 20 parts per billion (ppb) and 0.5 ppb in milk products.
Eating foods with a lot of aflatoxin is a definite cause of cancer. But what about inhaling aflatoxins? Does having Aspergillus mold growing in your home pose a cancer risk? Here, the research is not so clear.
We have previously reported on a headline in Sweden that read “The Mold in the School is Cancer Causing.” At this particular school, 40% of the staff that worked there for five years or more have been diagnosed with cancer. These statistics are hard to ignore. There are many undependable reports here in America about an abnormally high number of teachers getting cancer that worked in moldy schools.
But it’s human nature to search for a cause for an unexplainable phenomenon. Ed McMahon did not smoke, and was reportedly very healthy. So when he fell ill with bone cancer and died, it’s easy to presume mold is the cause when no other explanation presents itself. Mold has always been the default cause in the medical world.
Toxic mold has been linked to many different health effects and we may never know definitively if mold is the direct cause. Those that wish to deny the mold-cancer link will always point out that “studies have not shown mycotoxin inhalation to cause cancer.” This is true, but the words can be misleading. There just isn’t enough information available yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.