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Exploring Potential Carcinogenic Activity of Per- and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances Utilizing High-Throughput Toxicity Screening Data.

  • Singh, Nalin1, 2
  • Hsieh, Ching Yi Jennifer1
  • 1 Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, 7020California Environmental Protection Agency, Sacramento, CA, USA.
  • 2 University of California, Davis, CA, USA.
Published Article
International journal of toxicology
Publication Date
May 04, 2021
DOI: 10.1177/10915818211010490
PMID: 33944624


Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are ubiquitous, persistent, and toxic chemicals that pose public health risks. Recent carcinogenicity concerns have arisen based on epidemiological studies, animal tumor findings, and mechanistic data. Thousands of PFAS exist; however, current understanding of their toxicity is informed by studies of a select few, namely, perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. Hence, the computational, high-throughput screening tool, the US EPA CompTox Chemical Dashboard's ToxCast, was utilized to explore the carcinogenicity potential of PFAS. Twenty-three major PFAS that had sufficient in vitro ToxCast data and covered a range of structural subclasses were analyzed with the visual analytics software ToxPi, yielding a qualitative and quantitative assessment of PFAS activity in realms closely linked with carcinogenicity. A comprehensive literature search was also conducted to check the consistency of analyses with other mechanistic data streams. The PFAS were found to induce a vast range of biological perturbations, in line with several of the International Agency for Research on Cancer-defined key carcinogen characteristics. Patterns observed varied by length of fluorine-bonded chains and/or functional group within and between each key characteristic, suggesting some structure-based variability in activity. In general, the major conclusions drawn from the analysis, that is, the most notable activities being modulation of receptor-mediated effects and induction of oxidative stress, were supported by literature findings. The study helps enhance understanding of the mechanistic pathways that underlie the potential carcinogenicity of various PFAS and hence could assist in hazard identification and risk assessment for this emerging and relevant class of environmental toxicants.

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