Insights into the potential carcinogenicity of micro- and nano-plastics

Elsevier, Mutation Research - Reviews in Mutation Research, Volume 791, 1 January 2023, 108453
Domenech J., Annangi B., Marcos R., Hernandez A., Catalan J.

There is a growing concern regarding the potential health effects that continuous exposure to environmental micro- and nano-plastics (MNPLs) may cause on humans. Due to their persistent nature, MNPLs may accumulate in different organs and tissues and may induce in the long term the development of cancer. The present study aimed to review the existing literature on the carcinogenic potential of MNPLs. As studies directly assessing carcinogenicity were expected to be scarce, studies dealing with indirect outcomes associated with the carcinogenic process were considered in the literature search. Of the 126 studies screened, 19 satisfied the inclusion criteria. Besides, 7 additional cross-referenced articles, identified through a careful reading of the previously selected papers, also met the inclusion criteria and, consequently, were included in the review. Most of the selected studies were performed using in vitro models whereas about 40% of the studies were done in rodents, although none of them included a 2-year carcinogenicity assay. Most of the reviewed studies pointed out the potential of MNPLs to induce inflammation and genotoxicity, the latter being recognized as a strong predictor of carcinogenicity. These, along with other important findings such as the MNPLs’ ability to accumulate into cells and tissues, or their capacity to induce fibrosis, may suggest an association between MNPLs exposures and the carcinogenic potential. Nevertheless, the limited number of available studies precludes reaching clear conclusions. Therefore, this review also provides several recommendations to cover the current knowledge gaps and address the future evaluation of the MNPLs’ carcinogenic risk.