Cancer in the air

June 2016
Photo Creative Commons
Glyphosate is the world's most used herbicide, widely applied in both urban and agricultural locations, and increasingly heavily sprayed on most GM crops.

Just a year ago we reported on science indicating that, while glyphosate enters skin at low levels, repeat doses to damaged skin can increase absorption of the chemical many fold [1].
Links between glyphosate and DNA damage, plus links between glyphosate and impairment of the mechanism for natural cell death, have led to suspicions that our rapidly-dividing skin cells could become cancerous if exposure to the herbicide interfered with their normal transition to the outer, dead, dermal layer.

Since our report, the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen" [2].

New research focusing on melanoma skin cancers, which spread easily through the body and are potentially lethal, has suggested that our emerging real-life exposure to glyphosate could have ominous implications for health.

Italian scientists surveyed melanoma sufferers to determine whether various environmental factors already known to raise the risk of developing cancer could act synergistically to promote the diseased state.

It has long been recognised that sunlight (UV light) is the most important risk factor for cancer, but many common pesticides are also known, or suspected, carcinogens. The study looked at different classes of pesticide, and found that people exposed to herbicides and fungicides were most at risk of cancer, with glyphosate by far the most common herbicide used. Subjects exposed at the same time to sunlight were significantly more at risk.

The authors pointed out that heating of the skin by UV light increases blood flow and sweating, both of which promote the absorption of chemicals.


Worryingly, the glyphosate now known to frequent our air, rain and untreated waterways might be causing a back-ground level of cancer in the supposedly 'unexposed' reference group in any such population study.  This means the true extent of cancer promoted by the herbicide could be underestimated.

The sooner we demand a ban on all known, probable or possible carcinogens from our life the healthier we will be.

Global Justice Now has an anti-glyphosate petition to the UK Secretary of State for the Environment (Liz Truss).  Check out


Cristina Fortes, et al., 2016, Occupational Exposure to Pesticides with Occupational Sun Exposure Increases the Risk for Cutaneous Melanoma, Journal of Environmental Medicine 58

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