Two common iron supplements may cause cancer


Sweden, Apr 19 (TNS): A new study finds that two iron compounds, which are used in supplements and food additives, raise levels of a cancer biomarker even when consumed in low amounts.

The new research comes from the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, in collaboration with the United Kingdom Medical Research Council and the University of Cambridge, also in the U.K. The scientists led by Nathalie Scheers, an assistant professor at the Chalmers University of Technology  explain that their research was prompted by older studies that showed that two compounds, called ferric citrate and ferric EDTA, promote tumors in mice.

But, these previous studies did not reveal “whether all forms of ‘bioavailable’ iron exacerbate gut cancer cells,” or whether different forms of iron display the same mechanism. So, in the new study, Scheers and colleagues examined the effect of these two compounds on the growth of human colorectal cancer cells. Additionally, they tested another widely available iron compound called ferrous sulfate. In their experiment, the researchers used levels of the compounds that might realistically be found in the gastrointestinal tract after taking the supplement.

To their knowledge, Scheers and colleagues are the first to study the effect of these compounds on human cells. The researchers published their findings in the journal Oncotarget. Scheers and her team used a range of techniques, including cell proliferation assays and Western blot analysis, to carry out their investigation. The study revealed that even in low amounts, both ferric citrate and ferric EDTA raised cellular levels of a cancer biomarker called amphiregulin and its receptor. By contrast, ferrous sulfate had no such effect on the cells.