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CANCER

France launches inquiry into toothpaste cancer risk

France ordered an inquiry on Friday after scientists reported that a food additive used to whiten toothpaste and chewing gum could cause precancerous lesions in rats.

France launches inquiry into toothpaste cancer risk
Many brands of toothpaste contain Titanium Oxide or E171. Photo: Clean Walmart/Flickr
Researchers from France and Luxembourg gave the additive, called E171 in Europe and the United States, to lab rats in their drinking water for 100 days.
   
In 40 percent of the rodents exposed, they observed the development of “preneoplastic lesions” or precancerous growths, the team reported.
 
The additive also inhibited the immune systems of the rats and “accelerated” the growth of lesions induced for the experiment, France's INRA agricultural research institute, which took part in the study, said in a statement.
   
“These results demonstrate a role in initiating and promoting the early stages of colorectal cancer formation,” it added, though it said no conclusion could be drawn about later phases of cancer, or of any danger to humans.
   
The results were published in the Nature journal published by Scientific Reports.
   
Reacting to the report, France's ministers of health, agriculture and economy instructed the country's food health and safety agency, Anses, to investigate whether the additive poses a risk for human health.
 
The agency must report its findings by the end of March.
   
E171 contains nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, a naturally occurring metal oxide. It is one of the five nanomaterials most commonly used in consumer products, including food, paints and cosmetics, according to the study.
   
E171 is commonly used as a whitening and brightening agent in candies, chewing gum, white sauces and cake icing.    
 
The US Food and Drug Administration approved it in 1966 at levels of no more than one percent of a food product's weight. But the study's authors said that in Europe, current regulations establish no daily intake limit.
   
The study was prompted by “growing concerns that daily oral… intake is associated with an increased risk of chronic intestinal inflammation and carcinogenesis”, or cancer formation, they said.

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HEALTH

French risk ‘preventable’ cancers by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily

The French are needlessly putting themselves at risk of developing cancer by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily, a new study reveals.

French risk 'preventable' cancers by smoking, drinking and eating unhealthily
Photo: AFP
The study by French health authority Santé publique France said that four out of ten cancer cases could be avoided by a change in behaviour. 
 
And in France that means less smoking and drinking alcohol, which were the top two causes of “preventable” cases of cancer in France, followed by poor diet and obesity, according to figures released by the health authority on Monday. 
 
Each of these factors kill a lot more people than they should, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and Santé publique France.
 
Of the 346,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in 2015 among those aged 30 and over, “142,000 (41 percent) could have been avoided if the entire population had not been exposed to the risk factors studied, or if exposure had been limited,” said the IARC. 
 
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The French food you love but should really steer clear of

Photo: Alpha/Flickr

Cancer is the leading cause of death in France, ahead of cardiovascular diseases, with tumors killing 164,000 people in 2013, according to France's Ministry of Health.

Smoking-related cancers such as lung cancer, among others, mainly affect the working classes.
 
The risk of getting these cancers is 1.5 to 2 times higher among the 20 percent most disadvantaged people in France compared to the 20 percent at the other end of the spectrum, said the IARC.
 
“Too few French people are aware of the risks they are taking,” said Health Minister Agnès Buzyn, who has taken a strong stance against smoking in France, in March. 
 
Alcohol is responsible for 8 percent of new “preventable” cancer cases, with the authors of the study saying that France could do much more to prevent alcoholism and advocating “increasing prices and taxes” on alcohol. 
 
Meanwhile, poor diet and obesity are each responsible for 5.4 percent of new “preventable” cancer cases, with the IARC pointing to the risks of a “low consumption of fruits, vegetables, dietary fiber and dairy products combined with a high consumption of red meats and processed meats”. 
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