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Herbal medicine might be responsible for high incidence of urinary tract cancer

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2644 (Published 10 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2644
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Chinese herbal medicines containing extracts from Aristolochia plants might be responsible for the high incidence of urinary tract cancer in Taiwan, a study has suggested.

It adds to growing evidence that herbal preparations using Aristolochia (now banned in Europe) are extremely dangerous and, given the lifelong persistence of the DNA damage they cause, have created “an international public health problem of considerable magnitude,” say the authors of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (doi/10.1073/pnas.1119920109).

In Taiwan there is a remarkably high incidence of upper urinary tract urothelial carcinoma (UUC), a condition diagnosed four times more often than it was in the early 1980s. Incidence, at nearly four cases per 10 000 people by 2007, is four times higher than in the US, where …

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