Dangerous chemicals linked to specific cancers in women, study finds

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A recent study published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology reveals a notable correlation between certain endocrine-disrupting chemicals and the development of specific cancers such as breast, ovarian, skin, and uterine cancers.

Researchers from UC San Francisco (UCSF), University of Southern California (USC), and the University of Michigan have found higher levels of chemicals like PFAS and phenols in people diagnosed with these types of cancer.

The Chemicals in Question

PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) and phenols, including BPA, are widely present in the environment, found in items ranging from Teflon pans to food packaging.

These “forever chemicals” are notorious for their longevity, both in the environment and within the human body.

Women with higher exposure to certain long-chained PFAS compounds showed nearly double the odds of prior melanoma and uterine cancer diagnoses.

Hormonal Disruption

Lead author Amber Cathey, Ph.D., mentions that PFAS appear to disrupt hormonal functions in women, possibly increasing the odds of hormone-related cancers.

The study included more than 10,000 participants and delved into racial/ethnic disparities in the risk associated with these chemicals.

Racial Disparities

The research also highlighted racial disparities, finding that the correlations between these chemicals and ovarian and uterine cancers were observed mainly in white women.

In contrast, associations between other PFAS and phenols were more prevalent in non-white women regarding breast cancer.

A Call to Action

Max Aung, Ph.D., the senior author of the study, advocates for considering PFAS and phenols as broad categories of environmental risk factors.

Tracey J. Woodruff, Ph.D., MPH, adds that this study provides further evidence for policymakers to take action in regulating these chemicals.

She suggests that one way to curb exposure is for the EPA to regulate PFAS as a class of chemicals, instead of one at a time.

Implications and Next Steps

While the study does not confirm a causal link, it offers compelling evidence to further investigate the role of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the onset of specific cancers.

These findings underscore the need for more research and potential regulatory action to limit human exposure to these harmful chemicals.

If you care about cancer risk, please read studies that exercise may stop cancer in its tracks, and vitamin D can cut cancer death risk.

For more information about cancer, please see recent studies that yogurt and high-fiber diet may cut lung cancer risk, and results showing that new cancer treatment may reawaken the immune system.

The research findings can be found in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.

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