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Cancer linked to certain herbs

The consumption of popular Chinese herbal products containing aristolochic acid is associated with a high risk of urinary tract cancer.

Cancer linked to certain herbs

The consumption of popular Chinese herbal products containing aristolochic acid is associated with a high risk of urinary tract cancer.

Aristolochic acid, known as Mu Tong in Chinese, is found naturally in some herbs that are used in Chinese herbal products to treat hepatitis, urinary tract infection, rhinitis, dysmenorrhoea and eczema.

While studies in the past have linked urothelial cancer to the use of aristolochic acid, the following is the first study to see if the same association can be made between cancer and herbal products containing aristolochic acid.

Researchers analysed the medical history of 4,594 patients with urinary tract cancer in Taiwan and compared the findings with those of 174,701 other people without the disease.

It was found that those who consumed Mu Tong had a far higher risk of developing urinary tract cancer, and the level of risk rose directly in relation to the dosage prescribed. The researchers therefore call for a ban on products containing Mu Tong. In addition, they also recommend continued surveillance of herbs or Chinese herbal products that might be adulterated with aristolochic acid-containing herbs.

They also suggested that patients with a history of aristolochic acid nephropathy or consumption of Mu Tong or Fangchi before they were banned should be monitored regularly for urinary cancer.
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