There doesn’t seem to be any question about the connection between pesticide exposure of agricultural workers and prostate cancer. We know that this kind of exposure leads to prostate cancer, and we know which pesticides are the causal agents.
Through new research that we have just completed, we can also now identify specific pesticides that are known to cause prostate cancer that contaminate specific tobacco products. This means that a whole new connection between smoking and prostate cancer starts to emerge.
We can see that specific pesticide contaminants of tobacco products are the same pesticides that have been shown to cause prostate cancer in exposed farm workers. (I discuss farm worker exposure vs smoker exposure below.)
Check out this data from lab tests we’ve just finished running on off-the-shelf tobacco products. Notice the totally illegal and banned worldwide DDT. Notice all the Azole fungicides like Penconazole. Check that amazing concentration of Cypermethrin. But really, with 0.816 mg/kg of DDT in every puff, all day every day, what other direct linkages to prostate cancer would you need? How about that 0.843 mg/kg of Carbenzadim, banned in the EU since 2014.
We are sadly confident that the entire tobacco product supply in the US will prove to be similarly heavily contaminated. We plan to test as many brands as possible as soon as funding becomes available. But here’s what we’ve found so far.
Farm workers are exposed heavily to known prostate carcinogens regularly during certain parts of the year, whereas smokers of the brands shown above are inhaling known prostate carcinogens 50-100 times a day and more, year-round. So we are looking at two kinds of exposure – heavy during the season for farm workers, and low-level 7/365 for smokers. Intermittent mid-level exposure vs chronic low-level exposure. Also the farm workers are being exposed to one chemical at a time where the smoker is getting a toxic cocktail. Then of course there are farm workers who smoke the cheap tobacco brands like little cigars because that’s all they can afford. Double or triple whammy there.
One thing that needs special attention with this new connection is the clear evidence that a smoker with prostate cancer risks that cancer turning very aggressive if it feeds on DDT and other endocrine-disrupting pesticides, which we can now show are just what that aggressive cancer is getting with every puff. Doctors see this happen in relapsing patients and know that it’s connected with their smoking but can’t explain why it’s happening.
Here’s the message: If you stop feeding that thing in your prostate the chemicals that turn it aggressive maybe it will calm down and maybe you and the docs can get it under control.
So, here are a few key references. There are plenty more – it just depends on how much convincing anyone needs.
Rev Environ Health. 2016 Sep 1;31(3):311-27
Results: The review included 49 studies published between 1993 and 2015. All studies were in English and analyzed exposure to pesticides and/or agricultural activities. Most studies (32 articles) found a positive association between prostate cancer and pesticides or agricultural occupations, with estimates ranging from 1.01 to 14.10.
So, what if tobacco products were loaded with pesticides but nobody knew about that contamination, so even though they knew there was a link between smoking and prostate cancer they didn’t know why? Would that show up in smoking & prostate cancer studies? Well, it seems that it might.
Eur Urol Focus. 2015 Aug;1(1):28-38.
Data from the peer-reviewed literature suggested an association of smoking and aggressive PCa. Although the pathophysiology underlying this association remains unclear, smokers presented higher PCa mortality and worse outcome after treatment. Smoking-cessation counseling should be implemented for patients with PCa, although its effect on PCa progression should be investigated.
OK, but how do we know that the pesticides in tobacco products have anything to do with prostate cancer? Well, first, pesticides used in tobacco are heavily used throughout agriculture. Second, we know that at least two of the contaminants of the little cigar we tested are potent human carcinogens and one acts specifically on human testicles. Now your testicles aren’t your prostate, but that’s getting close enough to merit a second glance if you’re a smoker, don’t you think?
“Carbendazim is a broad-spectrum benzimidazole antifungal with potential antimitotic and antineoplastic activities. Although the exact mechanism of action is unclear, carbendazim appears to binds to an unspecified site on tubulin and suppresses microtubule assembly dynamic. This results in cell cycle arrest at the G2/M phase and an induction of apoptosis.”
Oh, and that other carcinogen – the one that directly impacts your prostate?
Volume 230, 25 March 2015, Pages 40-49
p,p′-Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (p,p′-DDT) and p,p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p′-DDE) repress prostate specific antigen levels in human prostate cancer cell lines
“Thus, we conclude that men who have been exposed to either DDT or DDE may produce a false-negative PSA test when screening for prostate cancer, resulting in an inaccurate clinical diagnosis. More importantly, prolonged exposure to these anti-androgens may mimic androgen ablation therapy in individuals with prostate cancer, thus exacerbating the condition by inadvertently forcing adaptation to this stress early in the disease.”
These are farmers, not smokers, but their prostate didn’t like the DDT exposure and neither will the prostate of anyone who inhales pesticide-contaminated tobacco product smoke (or vapor).
Prostate. 2011 Feb 1;71(2):168-83.
Prostate cancer risk and exposure to pesticides in British Columbia farmers.
“The significant association between prostate cancer risk and exposure to DDT (OR = 1.68; 95% CI: 1.04-2.70 for high exposure), simazine (OR = 1.89; 95% CI: 1.08-3.33 for high exposure), and lindane (OR = 2.02; 95% CI: 1.15-3.55 for high exposure) is in keeping with those previously reported in the literature.
If you keep smoking things just get worse; if you quit after 10 years the risk disappears. But if you are going to keep smoking at least pay attention to the pesticides that you’re inhaling and choose the least contaminated brand possible.
European Urology, December 2015, Volume 68, Issue 6, Pages 949–956
Association of Cigarette Smoking and Smoking Cessation with Biochemical Recurrence of Prostate Cancer in Patients Treated with Radical Prostatectomy
We investigated the effect of smoking on the risk of prostate cancer recurrence in patients with treated with surgery. We found that former smokers and current smokers were at higher risk of cancer recurrence compared to patients who never smoked; the detrimental effect of smoking was mitigated after 10 yr or more of smoking cessation.
I’m not writing this post as a science paper – I’m writing it to point out a connection that is as obvious as it is hidden, and hoping that the message will reach people who can benefit. The message to smokers is that if you are going to smoke, pay close attention to the contaminants in your brand and stop feeding your cancer with banned pesticides. I know this is heresy but – if you’re going to keep smoking than at least smoke American Spirit organic tobacco. Fair disclosure – I invented American Spirit but lost the company to the tobacco industry not long after we started and I have absolutely no connection of any kind to the company. I don’t benefit in any way from anyone choosing American Spirit. Well, actually, the benefit I get is the only one I want, which is knowing that I may have made a contribution to the health and happiness of another person.