Does Triclosan Cause Tumours In Humans?

14741409496_4e463f8de1_oYou may have seen some media around some recent research that looked at the impact of high levels of Triclosan on mice. You can look at the study here. Thanks to the brilliant team at the Australian Science Media Centre (via the UK Science Media Centre), there’s some expert feedback on the study and its implications for humans:


Dr Oliver A.H. Jones, Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry at RMIT University Melbourne, said:

“The results of this study are certainly interesting but I do not think they are a cause for concern for human health.

“Firstly the mice used in the study were primed with a tumor promoting chemical before being exposed to triclosan (which humans would not be) and the concentrations of triclosan used were much higher than those found in the environment.

“It is also worth remembering that mice are not mini humans and what happens in a mouse liver is often very different from what happens in human livers, or even in those of other rodents. For example, previous studies on rats, and hamsters treated with triclosan did not show any tumor formation at all. Thus the present study, whilst interesting, does not show the full picture.”


Dr Nick Plant, Reader in Molecular Toxicology at the University of Surrey, said:

“This study has been undertaken robustly and the experimental findings are reasonable. Note that the authors study only mice, and draw conclusion only on mice. Their comments on human health are very circumspect.

“As the authors state, it is difficult to assess if the dose that they use in mice is relevant to human exposure levels, but at a simple examination it appears to be much higher than I would expect to see in a human. This further complicates extrapolation to the human situation as we are not comparing equivalent exposures.

“The data does support the action of triclosan on the nuclear receptor constitutive androstane receptor(CAR), and that this could act as a tumour promoter.  The suggestion that this action could be further exacerbated by the regenerative hyperplasia seen in humans suffering from liver disease is reasonable, but there is no real evidence to support this.

“However, the authors do not address a key point in their paper, which is whether the proposed mechanism is conserved across species.  The previously reported effects of Triclosan on the nuclear receptor PPARalpha do not impact human health as the PPARalpha signalling pathway is different between rodents and humans (and the authors dispute these anyway). In this paper, the authors suggest that the tumourogenic mechanism is via another nuclear receptor CAR.  For this nuclear receptor there is also a considerable species difference in response, with chemicals (including carcinogens) acting differently between rodents and man.

“On this basis, it is not valid to state that the effect of triclosan in mice will occur in humans as well, indeed the historical body of evidence suggests a species-dependent effect is more likely.  However, as with all new signals, it is important to examine them and decide if they are biologically plausible in the species of concern (in this case humans).  I would treat this paper as interesting, but would not see it as the basis for a shift in triclosan use at present.  There are simply too many unanswered questions as to whether the findings are relevant to humans, and indeed the body of evidence currently suggests that they are not.”


Prof Tony Dayan, Emeritus Toxicologist, said:

“The report describes a sophisticated set of investigations into the molecular biological and pathological consequences of prolonged exposure of  laboratory mice to TCS, culminating in promotion of the development of liver cancer in mice pre-treated with a powerful cancer-causing chemical, i.e. tumours occurred more often in mice co-treated with TCS over a long period.

“The authors themselves point out that the dose of TCS was very considerably higher than the average amount that humans might ingest from toothpaste and other products or in drinking water if the normal procedures of water purification had not removed any that might have been present in raw water sources. They did not explore whether lower doses had similar actions nor did they investigate the relevance of the gene changes shown to human tumour development.

“High doses of many substances have been shown to act as ‘promoters’ of liver tumours in experimental animals, including a number that have been sufficiently well studied to show that the same effect has not occurred in humans, including phenobarbitone, a well known treatment for certain types of seizures, and certain [>] other medicines.

“Any study of the means by which a chemical can act as [>] a promoter in the laboratory can provide important information about cellular mechanisms. However, it is not possible to draw a direct link based on the artificial nature of those experiments and a risk to people. That would require much more information particularly whether the chemical  had any relevant action after the much lower doses to which we might be exposed and if the same pathways were affected in a similar way in humans.”


Prof Alan Boobis, Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology, Imperial College London, said:

“This is not the first study of the carcinogenicity of triclosan, even in mice.  Previous, guideline compliant, studies have established that triclosan is carcinogenic to the liver of mice but not to rats or hamsters.  The mechanism of tumour formation has not been established, but it does not involve damage to DNA (genotoxicity).  The present study extends information on the possible mechanism for liver tumours in mice.  This appears to involve initial damage to the liver, leading to fibrosis which then acts to exacerbate any pro-carcinogenic incidental or induced DNA damage, by compounds that can interact directly with DNA.

“The dose used in the present study was similar to that at which tumours had been observed previously in mice. Studies in primates showed no hepatic damage at doses greater than those used in the present study, when administered for 12 months. Whilst it is possible that the carcinogenic effect in mice is relevant to humans, it should be noted that mouse liver tumours are induced by many chemicals, and often they are not relevant to humans.  Further information on the mode of action for the liver tumours observed in the present study would be necessary to determine the relevance if any for triclosan.

“Notwithstanding this uncertainty, the tumours in mice are secondary to hepatic damage, an effect that shows a threshold.  Hence, ensuring exposure to triclosan is below that causing liver damage would be more than sufficient to avoid the risk of any carcinogenic effects in humans.”


Prof Sir Colin Berry, Emeritus Professor of Pathology at Queen Mary University of London, said:

“Triclosan is metabolised in the liver by sulphation and glucuronidation; i.e. groups are added to the compound to make it soluble enough to excrete. So this is work for liver cells (like alcohol) and if you have damaged them, any continued stimulus to activity will result in growth with increased tumour numbers in experimental situations where DNA damage has been induced. Tylenol uses the same mechanisms and would probably act in the same way.

“Initiation and promotion are long standing concepts in oncogenesis but anything increasing division rates in liver cells will work – more cirrhotics get hepatocellular cancer now as we keep them alive longer with their liver nodules growing.”


So the summary of all that? Nothing’s proven as far as human impact and that most likely you’d need to be ingesting levels of Triclosan that damaged your liver before there’d be a likelihood of tumours.


Journal of Virtual Worlds Education: inaugural issue

Just a quick heads-up of the launch of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Education. Published by The Center for Virtual Worlds Education and Research, there’s a mix of research and discussion papers covering a wide gamut.

Check out the main JVWE website or view the first issue here.

Journal of Virtual Worlds Research Volume 3, Number 1 released

I’m a big fan of the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research – it’s not just because they’re one of the few journals around devoted to the topic, but it’s the variety of articles in each issue.

The latest volume is titled The Researcher’s Toolbox, so as you’d expect its focus is research methodologies. That said, there’s plenty of different topics to sample. I’ll showcase the couple of the articles over coming weeks as I hopefully get time to read them.

In the meantime, here’s the full list of articles:

Editor-Chief′s Corner

Virtual Worlds, the IRB and a User’s Bill of Rights
Jeffrey M. Stanton .

Peer Reviewed Research Papers

How to approach a many splendoured thing: Proxy Technology Assessment as a methodological praxis to study virtual experience
Lizzy Bleumers, Kris Naessens, An Jacobs

dint u say that: Digital Discourse, Digital Natives and Gameplay
John Grantham

A Design Research Approach to Developing User Innovation Workshops in Second Life
Remko Helms, Elia Giovacchini, Robin Teigland, Thomas Kohler

What are users thinking in a virtual world lesson? Using stimulated recall interviews to report student cognition, and its triggers
Lyn Henderson, Michael Henderson, Scott Grant, Hui Huang

Applying Constant Comparative and Discourse Analyses to Virtual Worlds Research
Peter Leong, Samuel R. H. Joseph, Rachel Boulay

Learning spaces, tasks and metrics for effective communication in Second Life within the context of programming LEGO NXT Mindstorms™ robots: towards a framework for design and implementation.
Stewart Martin, Michael Vallance, Paul van Schaik, Charles Wiz

Conducting Empirical Research in 3D Virtual Worlds: Experiences from two projects in Second Life
Shailey Minocha, Minh Tran, Ahmad John Reeves

eLab City: A Platform for Academic Research on Virtual Worlds
Thomas P. Novak

Process, Paratexts, and Texts: Rhetorical Analysis and Virtual Worlds
Christopher A. Paul

Interviews within experimental frameworks: How to make sense of sense-making in virtual worlds
CarrieLynn D. Reinhard

Using Design-Based Research for Virtual Worlds Research Projects
Antonio Santos

Research Papers

The Neil A. Armstrong Library and Archives: That’s One Small Step for a Virtual World Library, One Giant Leap for Education!
Shannon Bohle

Encouragingly, the editors are putting out a second volume of this theme due to the volume of submissions received.

Meth apartment in Second Life

This story appeared originally on our sister-site Metaverse Health.

UCLA have undertaken a fascinating study within Second Life, using it as an immersive environment to replicate scenarios around methamphetamine use and the triggers those scenarios provide in relation to cravings and potential for relapse.

Read the full details here, plus there’s a short introduction video here. The preliminary outcomes of the study showed that the simulation is proving more effective for cue exposure than traditional methods such as videos and use of drug paraphernalia such as needles, syringes and preparation implements. There’s planned future research on looking at what treatments work best to reduce cravings, using the simulation as the benchmark measurement.

Aside from the obvious benefits this approach is going to bring for improved treatment interventions, some other key points need to be made:

Simulation is more than hospitals: There tends to be a focus on the use of virtual worlds to simulate hospital and paramedical environments. Those aspects are very important, but being able to replicate community environments where problematic behaviours occur, is an equally rich vein to mine as a health professional.

Virtual can be better than real: One of the preliminary outcomes mentioned was that the simulation demonstrated better cue exposure than just interacting with drug paraphernalia. This seems a little counterintuitive, but with illicit drug use in particular, the environment surrounding the use is a pivotal component, so replicating such an environment, if done authentically, is going to beat a counselling room with syringes and spoons every time. There is an enormous number of health issues where the same applies, meaning that not only can costs of interventions be lowered in some circumstances, but efficacy can also be improved.

Diabetes, Second Life and health outcomes

This story appeared over at Metaverse Health originally.

The Boston University Medical Center continues its work on health and virtual worlds, succeeding in gaining a US$950,000 grant from the US National Library of Medicine. The funding is for a study on the efficacy of using Second Life for Type 2 Diabetes education with African-American women versus more traditional face-to-face interventions.

You can read more detail on the study here, but there’s one key strength of the study that stands out for me: quantitative health data. Each participant will have cholesterol and ‘diabetes control’ blood tests taken before and after they receive the education sessions, as well as blood pressure readings.

The results of the study are likely to be be groundbreaking: either virtual worlds-based interventions for diabetes will be shown to be effective, or a very large challenge will be laid down to virtual worlds advocates if the results aren’t of the quantum expected. This is a study to watch.

Texting while driving: now a proven deadly habit

Photo courtesy

A study by the University of North Texas Health Center has shown what may be unsurprising to a lot of people: texting while driving has killed a lot of people.

The study looked at United States drivers between 1999 and 2008, and amongst other things found:

  • After declining from 1999 to 2005, fatalities from distracted driving increased 28% after 2005, rising from 4572 fatalities to 5870 in 2008
  • Crashes increasingly involved male drivers driving alone in collisions with roadside obstructions in urban areas.
  • Increasing texting volumes resulted in more than 16000 additional road fatalities from 2001 to 2007.

Of course, the challenge will be somehow convincing the huge number of driving texters out there that they in fact aren’t better drivers than the sixteen thousand people who have died already. There are already sites devoted to the issue, such as this one.

It’d be interesting to know what the gender breakdown of the fatalities were i.e. are males the primary offenders like they are with accidents more widely? Or is it something that females dominate?

Would love to get your thoughts / close call stories.

via [LA Times]

Body image study: last chance for participation

Back in January we promoted a study being undertaken by Doctorate student Jon-Paul Cacioli on body image in virtual worlds (the study participants need to be aged 18 or over and be male). Click here for the survey link

The response over recent months has been good be Jon-Paul needs a few more people to take part in the survey:

We have introduced an amazon gift voucher of $100 which will be randomly drawn from all participants who entered after data analysis is complete. If individuals have already entered prior to the prize they can email me at and I will add them to the draw.

Thanks for your help

So why not jump in and assist in developing the body of knowledge in an area we all know fairly well – the results could be interesting to say the least.

An endless map

It’s safe to say that one of the most discussed areas of virtual environments is the link between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’. Like any philosophical debate, there’s a minefield of perspectives, preconceptions, research and outright conflict. So to attempt an objective discussion on ‘mapping’ the parallels between the two spheres is quite an undertaking, and that’s what Dmitri Williams has done.

I’ve spent the past six weeks digesting Williams’ lengthy piece titled The mapping principle, and a research framework for virtual worlds. Attempting to summarise the whole is nearly pointless and I’d strongly recommend taking the time to read the whole paper, as it addresses some key issues that are far from resolved.

What’s particularly appealing to me with the paper is its direct dissection of some of the hyperbole around the validity of mapping the real to the virtual, and the commitment to a research framework that may help drive some higher quality research into the future. The framework amongst other things recognises a key issue in virtual worlds research – comparing like with like:

Therefore a strong assumption of this framework is that we cannot automatically treat virtual worlds as equivalent to one another. The reasons for this lie in the concepts of code and social architecture… behavior in virtual spaces is governed by software as much as by laws, markets or social norms. In real space we take it for granted that we can walk but not fly, or talk with people who are in hearing distance. These abilities and limitations are not safe to assume in virtual spaces where the affordances and limitations of human actions and interactions are whatever the code says they are. Indeed, they may all be flipped. Code may also control who can interact with whom, when and how.

To the seasoned virtual worlds observer this may seem self-evident, but the development of well thought out research frameworks assists those for whom virtual environments are a subject for investigation and more specifically those who have no significant experience with virtual worlds but recognise their value for expanding knowledge. As Williams says: “the field of virtual worlds research is poised to take off”, and work like this is going to help ensure the momentum has some sort of guidance system.

It’s also worth spending some time sifting through the comments on the paper’s blog post on Terra Nova, as there’s some significant commentary and debate on the paper and related issues.

Over to you: if you’re interested in virtual worlds research, do you see the fleshing out of the mapping concept a worthwhile pursuit?

Educators and Second Life: local research

Between August 2009 and February this year, Holmesglen’s Kenneth Rankin (SL: Ken001 Silverfall) undertook some research in Second Life as part of his Master of Education studies at the University of Southern Queensland.

It’s a fascinating snapshot on the state of play in regards to educators and Second Life, and includes some substantive recommendations for the future that may generate some debate. More on that later, but first the data:

Research context

After reading some of the results, I took the opportunity of contacting Kenneth, to ask him for some background and clarification of specific results:

TMJ: When was the research undertaken, with whom was it conducted, what was the sample size and the overarching research methodology?


· Data was collected during Nov 2009 via a web based questionnaire on SurveyMonkey.
· 79 persons responded, but 14 did not fully complete the survey. Analysis was conducted on data collected from 65 persons.
· The survey was undertaken only by educators who had at least one avatar in Second Life.
· Background: The technology adoption cycle, described by Rogers, shows the adoption of technology in various phases of adopters. First are the Innovators, then the Early Adopters, the Early Majority, the Late majority and finally the Laggards. Most technologies will enter mainstream use only if they can cross ‘the chasm’ between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority. Second life has been predicted to remain in the Early Adopters phase until 2013 when it is expected transition into the Early Majority phase.
· The main question to be answered by this research was “what can be learned from the experiences of the Second Life Early Adopters to facilitate the move into the Early Majority phase?”
· The topic was: “The collection and analysis of avatar experiences in order to provide conduct and appearance guidelines for educators adopting Second Life”.
· The research was a cross-sectional, qualitative, non-experimental design. The survey consisted of 29 questions with a mix of open and closed questions.

TMJ: Were there any results that surprised you?


· 38% of educators have no real-world code of conduct.
· 74% of educators have no real-world appearance code.
· The main reason to lose the ‘newbie’ look was originally thought to be as a deterrent to ‘griefers’. It was found that people lose the ‘newbie’ look in order to increase credibility and to display experience.
· Female avatars appear to be the target of more griefing incidents than males and are specifically targeted for sexual griefing. 17 males reported 6 non-sexual incidents and zero sexual incidents (35%), while 48 females reported 23 non-sexual incidents and 9 sexual incidents (66%). This was a surprise in an environment that was expected to be female friendly and gender neutral.

The full results

· The respondents were 74% female, average age just over 47, mainly from Nth America (54%) then Asia/Pacific (31%) and Europe (15%)
· Highly experienced group with more than half having over 3 years of Second life experience.
70% of educators use multiple avatars (accounts).

Recommendation: Educators should aim to have a single purpose for each of their avatars. The most common singularity of purpose is to provide for a private avatar and a professional avatar.

62% of employers provide a real-world code of conduct (CoC)  for employees

23% of employers have extended their RW CoC into SL

6% of employers have an SL CoC

43% of employees believe that a CoC is required in SL and 43% believe that it is not required.

26% of employers provide a real-world appearance code for employees

6% of employers have extended that RW AC into SL

5% of employers have an SL AC

8% of employees believe that an SL AC is required and 89% believe that it is not required.

Recommendation: The Early Majority will look for greater structure and guidance in SL than that required by the Early Adopters. A CoC and an AC should be considered as facilitation factors to assist more educators to adopt SL.

Recommendation: Educators should not be dissuaded from the adoption of alternative forms and appearances for their avatar. Appearance, however, does need to be appropriate for the educational context, especially when representing an organisation.

Recommendation: Each avatar should have in their inventory, a collection of appearances or outfits that are appropriate to their range of educational contexts and functions.

89% of respondents chose human form in Second Life

6% represent themselves in the opposite gender.

44% have some form of name relationship with their avatar

79% have some form of appearance relationship with their avatar

Recommendation: Care should be exercised when selecting the name of the avatar at the account creation stage, as this is one of the few aspects of the avatar that cannot be changed later

66% of avatars have lost the newbie look within 1 month.

The main reason to lose the newbie look is to increase credibility and to display experience.

12% of avatar profiles provide enough information to identify the RW person

40% of avatar profiles provide enough information to identify the RW place of work

53% of avatar profiles provide enough information to identify the person’s RW position or role

Recommendation: Educators should exercise discretion with the information provided through the avatar’s profile. This information should be checked against the purpose of the avatar, the code of conduct and the privacy guidelines of the employer.

Of the critical incidents reported, 58% were of a positive nature and 38% were of a negative nature.

Recommendation: Educators need to be made aware of the ‘big 6’ SL community standards, the range of positive and negative incidents that can occur in SL and how to manage these incidents. Educators also need to be aware that griefing of a sexual nature does exist and appears to be specifically targeted at female avatars.


This research provides a great deal of insight into the educator demographic in Second Life. A lot of the results aren’t surprising, but as a whole they do provide some fascinating launch points for further discussion. So over to you: whether you’re an educator or not, what stands out for you in the results? Do you agree or disagree with the recommendations put forward?

A big thanks for Lindy McKeown for the heads-up.

Body image and virtual worlds: call for study participants

Jon-Paul Cacioli is a Doctor of Clinical Psychology student at Deakin University, and he’s currently conducting a study on body image in virtual worlds. In his words:

“I am looking for participants, male and 18+ to complete a survey regarding both their real world and virtual world body images and psychological states.”

He needs 300 or so participants to take the survey. It’s a fairly intensive process, which takes around 15-20 minutes. If you have that time to give, then go make a contribution toward the increased understanding of how we perceive ourselves in the virtual and real worlds.

Link to the survey

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