The toxicology of perfluorooctanoate

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2004 Jul-Aug;34(4):351-84. doi: 10.1080/10408440490464705.


PFOA is a peroxisome proliferator (PPAR agonist) and exerts morphological and biochemical effects characteristic of PPAR agonists. These effects include increased beta-oxidation of fatty acids, increases in several cytochrome P-450 (CYP450)-mediated reactions, and inhibition of the secretion of very low-density lipoproteins and cholesterol from the liver. These effects on lipid metabolism and transport result in a reduction of cholesterol and triglycerides in serum and an accumulation of lipids in the liver. The triad of tumors observed (liver, Leydig cell, and pancreatic acinar-cell) is typical of many PPAR agonists and is believed to involve nongenotoxic mechanisms. The hepatocellular tumors observed in rats are likely to have been the result of the activation of the peroxisome proliferator activated receptor alpha (PPARalpha). The tumors observed in the testis (Leydig-cell) have been hypothesized to be associated with an increased level of serum estradiol in concert with testicular growth factors. The mechanism responsible for the acinar-cell tumors of the pancreas in rats remains the subject of active investigation. The mechanism resulting in the hepatocellular tumors in rats (PPARalpha activation) is not likely to be relevant to humans. Similarly, the proposed mechanism for Leydig-cell tumor formation is of questionable relevance to humans. Acinar tumors of the pancreas are rare in humans, and the relevance of the these tumors, as found in rats, to humans is uncertain. Epidemiological investigations and medical surveillance of occupationally exposed workers have not found consistent associations between PFOA exposure and adverse health effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caprylates / blood
  • Caprylates / pharmacokinetics
  • Caprylates / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / blood
  • Fluorocarbons / pharmacokinetics
  • Fluorocarbons / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Leydig Cell Tumor / chemically induced*
  • Liver Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Mutagenicity Tests
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Peroxisome Proliferators / agonists*
  • Rats
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Testicular Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Caprylates
  • Fluorocarbons
  • Peroxisome Proliferators
  • perfluorooctanoic acid