Toward a Mechanistic Understanding of Poly- and Perfluoroalkylated Substances and Cancer

Cancers (Basel). 2022 Jun 14;14(12):2919. doi: 10.3390/cancers14122919.


Poly- and perfluoroalkylated substances (PFAS) are chemicals that persist and bioaccumulate in the environment and are found in nearly all human populations through several routes of exposure. Human occupational and community exposure to PFAS has been associated with several cancers, including cancers of the kidney, testis, prostate, and liver. While evidence suggests that PFAS are not directly mutagenic, many diverse mechanisms of carcinogenicity have been proposed. In this mini-review, we organize these mechanisms into three major proposed pathways of PFAS action-metabolism, endocrine disruption, and epigenetic perturbation-and discuss how these distinct but interdependent pathways may explain many of the proposed pro-carcinogenic effects of the PFAS class of environmental contaminants. Notably, each of the pathways is predicted to be highly sensitive to the dose and window of exposure which may, in part, explain the variable epidemiologic and experimental evidence linking PFAS and cancer. We highlight testicular and prostate cancer as models to validate this concept.

Keywords: PFOA; PFOS; epigenetics; metabolomic; prostate cancer; testicular cancer.

Publication types

  • Review