Washington DC: Certain iron supplements may influence the development of colon cancer, a new research has found.
According to Chalmers University of Technology-led study, two compounds, ferric citrate and ferric EDTA, are often used in dietary supplements and as a food additive respectively, in worldwide markets including the USA and the EU, increase the formation of a known biomarker for cancer.
The new study looked at the effect of normal supplemental doses of these compounds on two types of cultured human colon cancer cells. As a comparison, they also measured the effects of ferrous sulphate, another very commonly available iron compound.
While ferrous sulphate had no effect, both ferric citrate and ferric EDTA caused an increase in cellular levels of amphiregulin, a biomarker for cancer. This was the case even at low doses.
"We can conclude that ferric citrate and ferric EDTA might be carcinogenic, as they both increase the formation of amphiregulin, a known cancer marker most often associated with long-term cancer with poor prognosis," said lead author Nathalie Scheers.
"Many stores and suppliers don't actually state what kind of iron compound is present - even in pharmacies. Usually, it just says 'iron' or 'iron mineral', which is problematic for consumers," she added.
Most of the iron that the body needs is obtained through food such as meat, fish, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. But sometimes this is not enough. Pregnant women may need additional iron, as well as people who have lost blood or have low hemoglobin levels for other reasons. In patients with kidney disease, high doses of iron may be needed to bind phosphates into the bloodstream.
The findings from the study are published in the journal Oncotarget.