Hundreds of chemicals, many in consumer products, could increase breast cancer risk
Every day, people are exposed to a variety of synthetic chemicals through the products they use or the food they eat. For many of these chemicals, the health effects are unknown. Now a new study shows that several hundred common chemicals, including pesticides, ingredients in consumer products, food additives, and drinking water contaminants, could increase the risk of breast cancer by causing cells in breast tissue to produce more of the hormones estrogen or progesterone.
“The connection between estrogen and progesterone and breast cancer is well established,” says co-author Ruthann Rudel, a toxicologist and research director at Silent Spring Institute. “So, we should be extremely cautious about chemicals in products that increase levels of these hormones in the body.”
For instance, in 2002, when the Women’s Health Initiative study found combination hormone replacement therapy to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, women stopped taking the drugs and incidence rates went down. “Not surprisingly, one of the most common therapies for treating breast cancer is a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors that lower levels of estrogen in the body, depriving breast cancer cells of the hormones they need to grow,” adds Rudel.
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