If you have a mold problem at home, you are already worried enough about common health risks. However, uninformed homeowners may have greater concerns, such as “can mold cause cancer?” Claims that connect mold with cancer risks keep popping up, making homeowners more worried about their health.
Are these claims true? Here is a critical look toward mold and how it affects your health, including the explanations about its connection with cancer risks.
Table of Contents
- A. Mold and Lung Cancer
- B. Mold and Liver Cancer
- C. Mold and Breast Cancer
- D. What about Black Mold?
- E. Mold and Health Problems
- F. How to Avoid Mold Exposure
A. Mold and Lung Cancer
The most prominent “theory” about mold-cancer relation explains that mold spores cause lung cancer to develop. Black mold gets a special mention because of its supposed toxicity. The truth is: mold does not directly cause cancer.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School concluded that there is not a direct link between black mold exposure and lung cancer development. Contrary to popular beliefs, black mold also does not have “dangerous toxins.” It has similar impacts with other mold types toward people who inhale the spores.
B. Mold and Liver Cancer
Another concern toward mold exposure is its connection with liver cancer. Certain types of mold, such as Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, are dangerous for health. Commonly grow on crops like rice, nuts, and corns, the mycotoxins in these mold species can cause health problems.
Can breathe in mold cause cancer? The answer is no. Mold in crops offers similar health risks than other species. Reports about farm workers developing health problems from spore inhalation and ingestion exist, but modern technology limits the risks. The government, farmer associations, and food manufacturers are cooperating to stop moldy products from reaching the customers.
C. Mold and Breast Cancer
Mycotoxins are often associated with risks of breast cancer. While they don’t pose a direct threat, mycotoxins may affect hormonal changes, which can be associated to breast cancer risk. The International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that OTA (Ochratoxin A), a mycotoxin found in coffee mold, as a possible carcinogenic.
Mycotoxins may affect high-risk people. If your family has breast cancer history, you may have a higher risk of developing it. Eating foods contaminated by mycotoxins can increase your risk of getting cancer. However, it is not the only factor, and the food and agriculture departments have programs to check crops, preventing moldy goods from arriving to your plates.
D. What about Black Mold?
Black mold is the real “black sheep” among mold family. It is often cited as a dangerous mold type, producing mycotoxins that cause serious health problems. Does black mold cause cancer?
Good news: black mold is not more dangerous than other mold types. A 2017 study by Borchers, Chang, and Gershwin revealed that there was no link between black mold and serious conditions, such as autoimmune disease, headache, lack of focus, fatigue, pulmonary hemorrhage, and memory loss (the study was published in Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology).
Despite having no link with serious conditions and direct cancer risks, black mold (and other mold types) still present clear danger from exposure.
E. Mold and Health Problems
Uncontrollable mold growth produces spores that impact your health in the long run. Even small exposures can lead to symptoms when you stay in a mold-infested property.
1. Signs of Mold Exposure
Mold’s flying spores can enter your nostrils and lungs through inhalation or fly into your eyes. Common mold exposure symptoms include:
- Eye problems like redness, irritation, itchiness, and watery eyes.
- Coughing and sneezing
- Wheezing breath
- Stuffed nostrils
- Skin irritation like redness, itchiness, and rash
Some preexisting conditions can act up when triggered by spores. If you have asthma, flying spores can aggravate your conditions and trigger symptoms. If you suffer from chronic sinusitis, your sinuses can swell, resulting in breathing difficulties.
Read also: How Do You Know You Have Mold exposure
2. Mold Exposure and Serious Conditions
Mold spores can aggravate symptoms in people with more serious conditions. Three of the most serious conditions are:
- Bronchopulmonary aspergillosis
This condition happens to people with severe asthma and cystic fibrosis. When spores trigger strong reactions, they can cause coughing (sometimes with mucus or blood), fever, and severe asthmatic symptoms.
Aspergilloma is a condition where spores invade body cavities, including the lungs. This condition often happens to people with tuberculosis or emphysema. Symptoms include wheezing breath, coughing blood, difficulties in breathing, and fatigue.
Aspergillosis is the more severe level of aspergillosis. It is a condition where the infection spreads from lungs to other organs, such as kidneys, heart, skin, and even brain. However, it only happens when the person suffers from low immunity.
People who already suffer from a certain type of cancer could experience worse condition when exposed to mold. Chemotherapy and certain types of drugs can also suppress the immune system.
F. How to Avoid Mold Exposure
Regardless of an unclear link between mold and cancer, mold spore exposure is still a bad thing. Avoid it by doing preventive actions, such as:
1. Knowing the signs of mold
Signs of mold can range from smell to visual. Be aware of signs such as musty smell and black, greenish, or bluish specks that are hard to clean. Pay attention to dark and moist spots, such as the bathroom, under the sink, basement, and ceiling room.
Read also: How to Spot Signs of Mold
2. Testing the presence of mold
Find companies that provide mold testing services. If you live in the US, find companies that have mold inspection certifications like NAMRI, NORMI, and American Council for Accredited Certification.
3. Cleaning the mold
You can clean a small amount of mold with detergent, vinegar, or bleach solution. Make sure to wear goggles, mask, and gloves, and get rid of the tools you use to clean mold. Open the window or door for ventilation during cleaning.
4. Fixing plumbing problems
Moisture is the key for mold to grow happily. Remove the moisture presence by detecting plumbing problems, such as leak and damaged pipes or rain gutters.
Finally, if the mold is too big, don’t hesitate to call a professional mold cleaning service. These companies know the best methods to remove large mold growth, preventing it from coming back.
Can mold cause cancer? The answer is: no. Mold does not directly cause cancer, but exposure to spores can aggravate existing conditions. Spores are also dangerous for people with the compromised immune system, such as those who are undergoing chemotherapy, suffering from cancer, or consuming certain drugs.
The best way to avoid mold problems? Check all the mold signs and clean it immediately, and call professionals if necessary.