There doesn’t appear to be any evidence connecting mold exposure to cancer.
While being exposed to mold can certainly have terrible health effects, it is not currently believed that mold exposure causes cancer.
There is a possibility that the toxic effects of mold exposure can lead to reduced functioning of your immune system. Mold exposure may allow cancer cells to grow and spread more easily, but this relationship has not been thoroughly studied.
Sick Building Syndrome
One possible explanation for the belief that mold and cancer are linked could be the “sick building syndrome.”
Sick building syndrome manifests when residents experience general sickness or flu-like symptoms with no apparent cause. The more time spent inside a “sick building,” the more likely they will develop these symptoms. And when they leave, the symptoms usually disappear.
There can be many potential causes of this form of environmental illness. Sometimes it can be a result of biological contamination. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and mold can breed in stagnant water found in drainpipes, ducts, humidifiers, ceiling tiles, and wet carpets. It can also be from chemical contamination, such as asbestos, formaldehyde, lead paint, or volatile organic compounds.
It might even result from electromagnetic radiation or even psychological factors – stressful work conditions, poor ergonomics, absence of sunlight.
In old, poorly maintained buildings, the air quality is often very poor. While mold might not directly lead to cancer, the presence of mold in a building could indicate a greater risk of exposure to other dangerous pollutants.
Dangers of Mold Exposure
Mold grows well in damp and humid conditions. Mold is found around leaky roofs, windows, and pipes, especially in places with poor ventilation, such as basements.
If mold spores are inhaled or ingested, they can trigger allergies and allergic-like symptoms. There is also evidence that some types of mold can cause more serious health complications, such as lung infections.
The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus.
It’s not currently accepted that any molds will contribute to cancer.
Exposure to certain substances in your environment can increase your cancer risk. The two most common materials linked to increased cancer risk are asbestos and formaldehyde.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once widely used as fire-resistant insulation material. Mold is found in many homes and buildings. When these fibers are inhaled or ingested, they accumulate in the lungs and start to cause damage that often leads to lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Formaldehyde is often used as an adhesive resin in composite wood products, such as particleboard and plywood. In high concentrations, it’s known to cause respiratory problems and contribute to cancer development.
So, even though mold is not suspected of causing cancer, the presence could be a sign of other health risks in your environment.