Yet another potential cause of lung cancer — and it isn’t smoking

On November 15, the California EPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced it intends to list emissions from high-temperature unrefined rapeseed oil as known to cause cancer.

I reviewed the studies they cited. Animal studies found high-temperature unrefined rapeseed oil emissions caused lung cancer tumors (primarily adenocarcinomas) in mice and rats (note: unrefined rapeseed oil is not the same as canola oil). An Egyptian study I found while following citations indicates cooking with high-temperature cotton oil may also cause mutations in the lungs of mice.

This provides more evidence that lung cancer ain’t just about smoking.  I suspect with time we will find that no matter where we live, our way of life exposes human lungs to many inhalants that induce mutations and lung cancer.  For instance, the lung cancer mortality rate in Xuan Wei County, China is among the highest in that country, and correlates with burning smoky coal indoors to heat homes.  This study indicates that residents there who had a variation in a gene known to help detoxify coal emissions were more likely to get lung cancer — a genetic susceptibility combined with an environmental trigger to cause lung cancer.

Lung cancers in never smokers may be the easiest way to identify these substances.  However, I suspect we will find the genetic variations and tumor mutations present in never smokers affect smokers and former smokers as well. We already know that the EGFR mutation in lung cancer tumors, while more common in never smoker females, are also found in smokers and former smokers.

As an aside, I think life as a lab mouse must really suck.

Thanks to friend Richard A. Lovett for forwarding the cooking oil article to me.

Edited 12-Dec-2013 18:40  PT:
I incorrectly equated unrefined rapeseed oil with canola oil.  Canola oil is not the same as rapeseed oil.