Mould or mold is the formation of fungi that normally appears to be dust-like to powdery due to its spores and other secondary metabolites like mycotoxins. Molds generally form on moist surfaces rich in nutrients, no surprise that we observe some on bread that is left out for one too many days.
Indoor mold also grows on frequently wet structures like leaking pipelines and walls attached to them. This threatens the health and safety of people near and around the fungus-infested areas as the research suggests that mold causes cancer and many other diseases.
Now, mold has a history suggesting its ability to make people sick from giving someone food poisoning to severe mycotoxicosis. Not consumption of mold is harmful, frequent exposure through breathing, and skin contact is proven to be fatal.
Molds are toxic to any animal in two ways: by themselves or indirectly by their secondary metabolites. Molds are generally pathogenic, that is, they have the ability to produce an infection in the host body. This is normally seen when the mold spores travel to the respiratory system on inhalation.
Spores act like seeds of fungi and take root in the lungs, causing histoplasmosis, causing pneumonia, and severe sarcoidosis. This fungal infection spreads to other organs and causes disease when not monitored by anti-fungal drugs.
Mycotoxins are the secondary metabolites of fungi that are said to be a defense mechanism against bacteria and other pathogens as seen in penicillin, an antibiotic drug obtained from the Penicillium (a fungus). These mycotoxins, however, are not only harmful to bacteria, they are harmful to humans as well.
Mycotoxin exposure through breathing may cause lung irritation and may aggravate allergies. This toxic chemical released by common mold spores of black mold poses a larger threat to immunocompromised patients with other health problems.
Symptoms of Mold Exposure
Mold exposure might not have any symptoms or infection in healthy individuals with strong immune systems. However, a few signs of mold illness in people with compromised immune systems with pre-existing health conditions include asthma hypersensitivity pneumonitis or asthma symptoms, nephropathy, neurological symptoms, toxic leukemia, and other life-threatening hemorrhagic symptoms. Upper respiratory symptoms are extremely common.
How Can Mold Cause Cancer?
Molds are not just noxious to the health, they might also cause cancer. Though primary mold infection doesn’t show any connection to cancers, mycotoxins are said to be highly carcinogenic, that is, cancer-causing in nature.
A field of study, mycotoxin-linked mutations suggests that the mycotoxins permeate human cells and cause abnormalities during cell division and may cause immortalization of the cells. This is one of the leading causes of liver cancer and lung cancer.
Mycotoxins produced by Aspergillus (aflatoxins) penetrate the cells prior to cell division and mutate DNA in such a way that tumor-suppressing proteins are no longer produced. Tumor-suppressing proteins prevent the excessive growth of cells and automate the death of cells.
These Aflatoxins are one of the most carcinogenic toxic mold substances, primarily affecting the lungs, liver, digestive tract, and kidneys. One may question which mold causes cancer other than these Aspergillus species, the following are the examples.
Other mycotoxins causing cancer include ochratoxins produced by Aspergillus, fumonisins produced by Fusarium species, and T-2 toxins. All of them trigger various cancers of different cells.
How Are We Exposed to Mold Spores and Mycotoxins in Daily Life?
Mold spores and mold itself are present everywhere. Toxic mold exposure may be due to indoor air quality or other environmental contaminants. Anywhere moist or humid can cause mold growth, thus increasing mold exposure.
Farm produce like coffee beans, wheat, maize, and other products may cause food contamination and allow black mold exposure. Mycotoxins are able to be detected only through a few elaborate methods and are not screened for on multiple occasions. This is a violation of food safety protocols.
Other forms of exposure come with improperly cleaned daily usage items.
How Do I Deal with Mold?
Mold is a Biosafety hazard as mold causes cancer and must be dealt with properly to prevent health problems. Since coming across indoor mold is common, one must know how to deal with it properly.
If mold is found on perishable food items like bread and vegetables, one must, at all costs avoid eating them. The trick where you would cut off the part with visible mold doesn’t work as mold spores and mycelium are not visible to the naked eye but still have the ability to produce the same symptoms.
Toss out the suspected food wrapped in a plastic bag and make sure to wash your hands and clothes with hot water and general-purpose detergent.
How Do I Treat Mycotoxosis and Fungal Infections?
Fungal infection is relatively common as it manifests as candidiasis and other skin-related issues. These infections can be subsided by using prescription anti-fungal creams.
In case, the infection is present internally, it is highly recommended to visit the doctor to confirm the exact situation. Medicines and antibiotics are required. On prolonged exposure to mycotoxins, mold cause cancer, hence, it is important to screen oneself in case of suspected long-term exposure.
Mycotoxosis on the other hand is pretty tough to treat in the later stages as it is basically a toxin that is deposited in the cells, preventing many functions. But, few treatments are available to treat the same.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does Mold Cause Cancer?
Yes, mold causes cancer indirectly through its secondary metabolites called mycotoxins. This creates a definite link between mold and cancer. They interfere with the cell division and cause mutations in the cell genome. And further interfering with automated cell death suggesting mold cause cancer.
Mold may cause invasive aspergillosis and mycotoxins cause liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma, lung cancer, and cancers of other organs on long-term exposure.
2. What Can I Do to Prevent Mold in My House?
Mold is present omnipotently, including in the air, water, and our living spaces. Preventing spores from entering our living spaces may be practically impossible, but is necessary in the premises of the susceptible people.
This can be done by using a cleaning pad on hard surfaces like ceiling tiles and benches, by using general-purpose may be, detergent, a stiff brush, and hot water. In the surroundings of a person with a compromised immune system, getting house tested might be necessary as tiny spores lingering in the air may produce severe reactions.
3. How Do I Deal with Mold on My Food and What to do if I Accidentally Consumed Mold?
It is crucial to avoid consuming food with mold on them as it might cause adverse human health effects like mold sickness, mold allergy, and other mold toxicity symptoms. If one consumes mold-ridden food accidentally, consult the doctor. Primary care and looking for symptoms of mold toxicity are also important.
In case your pets consume it, it is also important to take the remnants of the mold to the labs so that they can diagnose for treatment.
In case, one finds mold on their food, it is advised to immediately discard it in a plastic cover and wash oneself and the surfaces the food touched.
4. What are the Symptoms of Mycotoxicosis and Mold infection?
Mycotoxicosis and mold infections are two different things. Mold infection primarily is the direct colonization of mold on the cells of our body. It may cause symptoms of asthma or induce upper respiratory symptoms and mold allergies on inhalation of the spores. Mold infection on the skin may cause yeast infections and candidiasis.
Mycotoxicosis on the other hand includes toxicity caused by mold metabolites. It may not be necessary to see mold formation near mycotoxins. They might come as contaminants in packaged food or farm produce. Mycotoxins act on the cell processes and may cause carcinomas or cancers of various organs.