Peer Reviewed Cancer
Posted June 17, 2020
Mark Purdue, Ph.D., National Cancer Institute, FY18 Idea Award with Special Focus
Dr. Mark Purdue
Dr. Jennifer Rusiecki
Dr. Mark Purdue, a cancer epidemiologist in the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, was awarded a FY18 Idea Award with Special Focus to investigate the relationship between per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure and testicular cancer in US Air Force Servicemen. PFAS are a large group of diverse chemicals used in different types of consumer products, from stain-resistant carpets and non-stick cookware to firefighting foam. As a result of their widespread use, PFAS are present in air, water, and soil. People can be exposed to these chemicals by consuming contaminated food or water, using products made with PFAS, or breathing in PFAS-polluted air.1 Research suggests that PFAS exposure may be linked to adverse health effects, including some cancers, but more work needs to be done to better understand the full public health impact of these substances.
In the 1970s, the US Air Force began using PFAS-containing firefighting foam at crash sites and fire training areas. Foam containing PFAS was phased out of use by the Department of Defense (DoD) in 2016 after the discovery that PFAS were contaminating the water supplies of several communities near military bases. The DoD has identified 401 military bases with known or suspected contamination.2 Small epidemiological studies suggest a relationship between exposure to certain PFAS and risk for testicular cancer.3 Testicular cancer is the most frequently diagnosed malignancy in US men aged 15-39 years and among active duty Servicemen. The causes of testicular cancer are poorly understood, but this cancer occurs more often in firefighters and aircraft maintenance workers compared to men in the general public.4
Dr. Purdue, in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Rusiecki at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, will utilize the Department of Defense Serum Repository to obtain blood serum samples from 500 US Air Force Servicemen diagnosed with testicular cancer several years after serum collection and 500 men without testicular cancer. These serum samples will be analyzed to measure levels of 12 PFAS to determine if there are higher serum PFAS in Servicemen who went on to develop testicular cancer compared to men who did not. They will also use these data to investigate whether Servicemen stationed at military bases that used PFAS-containing firefighting foam have higher levels of serum PFAS compared with Servicemen stationed at locations that did not use these foams. Ultimately, Dr. Purdue and his team hope this project will shed light on the extent of PFAS exposure among Air Force Servicemen and better understand the health impacts of PFAS exposure.
1 Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/pfc/index.cfm
2 Department of Defense Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Task Force Progress Report, March 2020.
3 Barry V, Winquist A, and Steenland K. 2013. Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) Exposures and Incident Cancers Among Adults Living Near a Chemical Plant. Environmental Health Perspectives. 121(11-12):1313-1318.
4 McGlynn KA and Trabert B. 2012. Adolescent and Adult Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer. Nature Reviews Urology. 9(6):339-349.
Public and Technical Abstracts: An Investigation of Serum Levels of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances and Testicular Cancer Risk Within the Department of Defense Serum Repository
Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022