More than 900 daily chemicals may cause breast cancer

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In an era where thousands of synthetic chemicals are prevalent, identifying potential health hazards is a daunting task for both regulatory agencies and manufacturers.

However, a groundbreaking study led by Dr. Jennifer Kay at Silent Spring Institute offers a promising solution.

Published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the study presents a quick method to predict a chemical’s likelihood of causing breast cancer, based on specific traits it possesses.

With breast cancer being the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States and an increasing trend observed in young women, identifying environmental factors contributing to this rise is critical.

This study provides a novel tool to pinpoint such environmental exposures, paving the way for effective prevention strategies.

The research team embarked on an extensive review, sifting through multiple international and U.S. government databases, to identify chemicals linked to mammary tumors in animals.

They particularly focused on endocrine disruptors identified in the EPA’s ToxCast program, chemicals that alter hormonal activity in ways that could promote breast cancer.

The team zeroed in on chemicals that interact with the estrogen receptor or increase estrogen or progesterone production, both known risk factors for breast cancer.

The findings are alarming yet illuminating: 921 chemicals were identified as potential promoters of breast cancer. Alarmingly, 90% of these chemicals are commonly encountered in everyday consumer products, food, pesticides, medications, and workplaces.

Of these, 278 cause mammary tumors in animals, with over half increasing estrogen or progesterone production and about a third activating the estrogen receptor.

The study goes further, identifying 420 chemicals that both damage DNA and alter hormones, heightening their risk profile.

The correlation between chemicals causing mammary tumors in animals and possessing DNA-damaging and hormone-disrupting characteristics is striking and suggests a new predictive approach for breast carcinogens.

This research comes at a crucial time, as growing evidence points to environmental chemicals as significant contributors to cancer development. Studies have linked breast cancer with exposure to various chemicals, including pesticides, hair dyes, and air pollution.

Importantly, exposures to hormone-disrupting chemicals early in life can alter breast development, increasing cancer risk later on.

The implications of this study are vast, potentially influencing how the EPA assesses chemical safety. For example, over 30 pesticides identified in the study had been previously approved by the EPA, despite links to mammary tumors.

With the EPA’s new strategic plan to evaluate pesticides’ hormonal effects, this study’s comprehensive list of breast cancer-relevant chemicals, including numerous endocrine disruptors, could be instrumental in shaping safer regulations and public health protection measures.

Co-authored by Megan Schwarzman at UC Berkeley and Julia Brody at Silent Spring Institute, this study represents a significant advancement in the field of environmental health and cancer prevention.

By providing a more efficient way to flag potentially harmful chemicals, it offers a roadmap to safeguard public health against breast cancer risks associated with chemical exposures.

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The research findings can be found in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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