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Aflatoxin and the aetiology of liver cancer and its implications for Guatemala

J.D. Groopman, J.W. Smith, A. Rivera-Andrade, C.S. Alvarez, M.F. Kroker-Lobos, P.A. Egner, E. Gharzouzi, M. Dean, K.A. McGlynn, M. Ramírez-Zea
Published: 14 September 2021

Abstract: During the 60 years since the first scientific reports about a relation between aflatoxin exposure and adverse health consequences, both in animals and humans, there has been a remarkable number of basic, clinical and population science studies characterising the impact of this mycotoxin on diseases such as liver cancer. Many of these human investigations to date have focused on populations residing in Asia and Africa due to the high incidence of liver cancer and high exposures to aflatoxin. These studies formed the basis for the International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify the aflatoxins as Group 1 known human carcinogens. In addition, aflatoxin contamination levels have been used in international commodity trade to set the price of various staples such as maize and groundnuts. While there have been many case-control and prospective cohort studies of liver cancer risk over the years there have been remarkably few investigations focused on liver cancer in Latin America. Our interdisciplinary and multiple institutional collaborative has been developing a long-term strategy to characterise the role of aflatoxin and other mycotoxins as health risk factors in Guatemala and neighbouring countries. This paper summarises a number of the investigations to date and provides a roadmap of our strategies for the near term to discern the emergent aetiology of liver cancer in this region. With these data in hand public health-based prevention strategies could be strategically implemented and conducted to lower the impact of these mycotoxins on human health.
Keywords: aflatoxin / contamination / Africa / Guatemala / mycotoxins / aetiology of liver cancer

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