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Japan scientists warn of cancer risk for Hyaluronan

May 11, 2019

Tokyo--Hyaluronan, a substance that is widely used in beauty treatments, can cause cancer, Japanese scientists warned on Friday.

While high-molecular-weight hyaluronan helps curb cancer development, low-molecular-weight hyaluronan works in the exact opposite way, a research team led by Masanori Hatakeyama, professor at the University of Tokyo, said.

As hyaluronan, or hyaluronic acid, maintains body tissue structures and keeps skin moist, it is used for beauty treatments and in orthopedic surgeries. In addition, recent studies have suggested that high-molecular-weight hyaluronan prevents cancer from developing.

According to the team's announcement and its article published online by the U.S. scientific journal Developmental Cell, Hatakeyama and colleagues found in mice that high-molecular-weight hyaluronan stimulates tumor-suppressive "Hippo" signaling in breast epithelial cells.

But they also discovered that low-molecular-weight hyaluronan, produced by degradation of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan, inhibits the signaling, helping highly intractable triple-negative breast cancer to grow.

The findings are expected to contribute to the development of novel cancer prevention methods and treatments, Hatakeyama said. He warned, however, against the heavy use of hyaluronan for non-medical purposes. Jiji Press