Aflatoxin causes DNA damage and with prolonged exposure to aflatoxin, cells accumulate DNA mutations and thus are at increased risk of developing into cancer cells.
Aflatoxin is a byproduct of mold that can cause DNA damage. With prolonged exposure to aflatoxin, cells accumulate DNA mutations and thus are at increased risk of developing into cancer cells.
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Thomas Kensler, Ph.D., Bloomberg School of Public Health:
“A lot is known about the mechanisms of activation and action of aflatoxin. It forms a reactive epoxide intermediate, which then forms a covalent bond to the N7 atom of guanine in site-specific sequences within critical target genes leading to mutations, altered function, loss of function of those genes. p53 is a major target for aflatoxin.”
“Aflatoxin is probably the best example of a carcinogen, a human carcinogen that targets p53. There are multiple hot spots in the p53 gene targeted by different types of carcinogens. Aflatoxin targets a guanine in codon 249 in the p53 gene.”
Thomas Kensler, Ph.D. is a professor at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of cancers linked to exposure to environmental carcinogens. This research has led to potential chemopreventative strategies for liver cancer in populations at high risk for aflatoxin exposure.
“I believe the importance of aflatoxin and the causation of liver cancer results from a life long series of exposures. Intermittent sort of random exposures are not likely to sort of tip the balance and create the cancer cells; our defense mechanisms are pretty good for those very low levels and intermittent levels of exposure. But there is a chronic long-term exposure through the diet in many of these high-risk areas. In turn that means we need a chronic long term commitment to a preventive intervention. We need an intervention that people could take every day or at least several times a week, but not just for weeks to make the problem go away, but for the rest of their lives. For as long as the aflatoxin exposure is there, the need for the countermanding or intervention approach is also very important.”
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Professor Kensler explains that Aflatoxin is a lipid soluble molecule that is rapidly absorbed and it goes first to the liver where there are enzymes that will chemically biotransform it into a very reactive chemical.