Thursday, August 8, 2013

Chinese herbal remedy linked to urinary cancers

VOA – Aug. 8, 2013 – If it is natural, is it safe to put in your body? To listen to many natural and organic food and medicine advocates that’s what you’d think, but you’d be wrong.

A natural herb called birthwart commonly used in Asia to treat arthritis, gout, inflammation and even used for weight-loss has been found to be powerful cancer-causing substance. 

As reported by Voice of America, the researchers found 753 gene mutations in a group of 19 kidney and urinary cancer patients who had taken aristolochic acid compared to 91 mutations in seven patients with urinary tract tumors who had not taken the herb. 

The fact that the flowering vine is carcinogenic isn’t news. It has been listed among known cancer-causing agents for some time and health officials in many Western countries have banned its import. What is surprising in this study is just how carcinogenic it turned out to be.

The lead author of the study, Bin Tean Teh of the National Cancer Center in Singapore said in an interview with the journal Science Translation Medicine that aristolochic acid caused more mutations than is seen in smoking-related lung cancer or skin cancer from ultraviolet radiation.

Perhaps more importantly, the researchers found that the pattern of mutations caused by aristolochic were distinctive enough that it might be useful as a screening tool for urinary and kidney cancers.

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