A Role of Low Dose Chemical Mixtures in Adipose Tissue in Carcinogenesis

Environ Int. 2017 Nov;108:170-175. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2017.08.015. Epub 2017 Aug 31.


The Halifax project recently hypothesized a composite carcinogenic potential of the mixture of low dose chemicals which are commonly encountered environmentally, yet which are not classified as human carcinogens. A long neglected but important fact is that adipose tissue is an important exposure source for chemical mixtures. In fact, findings from human studies based on several persistent organic pollutants in general populations with only background exposure should be interpreted from the viewpoint of chemical mixtures because serum concentrations of these chemicals can be seen as surrogates for chemical mixtures in adipose tissue. Furthermore, in conditions such as obesity with dysfunctional adipocytes or weight loss in which lipolysis is increased, the amount of the chemical mixture released from adipose tissue to circulation is increased. Thus, both obesity and weight loss can enhance the chance of chemical mixtures reaching critical organs, however paradoxical this idea may be when fat mass is the only factor considered. The complicated, interrelated dynamics of adipocytes and chemical mixtures can explain puzzling findings related to body weight among cancer patients, including the obesity paradox. The contamination of fat in human diet with chemical mixtures, occurring for reasons similar to contamination of human adipose tissue, may be a missing factor which affects the association between dietary fat intake and cancer. The presence of chemical mixtures in adipose tissue should be considered in future cancer research, including clinical trials on weight management among cancer survivors.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Chemical mixtures; Halifax project; Obesity paradox; Persistent organic pollutants; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Carcinogenesis*
  • Carcinogens / analysis
  • Carcinogens / toxicity*
  • Complex Mixtures / analysis
  • Complex Mixtures / toxicity*
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Obesity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Weight Loss


  • Carcinogens
  • Complex Mixtures