Environmental toxin exposure tied to breast cancer risk
Key recurring themes in the growing scientific literature on breast cancer and environmental risk factors are the importance of understanding the effects of mixtures and interactions between various chemicals, radiation and other risk factors for the disease and the increasing evidence that timing of exposures matters, with exposures during early periods of development being particularly critical to later risk of developing breast cancer.
A review of the scientific literature shows several classes of environmental factors have been implicated in an increased risk for breast cancer, including hormones and endocrine-disrupting compounds, organic chemicals and by-products of industrial and vehicular combustion, and both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation.
A woman’s breast cancer risk is determined by the complex relationship between her genetic makeup and the environment she was exposed to during her lifetime. There are substances in the environment known as endocrine disruptors that have a similar chemical structure as our body’s natural hormones. They can be natural or manmade. When they are absorbed into the body, they can interfere with the normal hormonal system. Research is finding a link between exposure to these chemicals and a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The link is strongest during certain phases of development: in-utero, during early childhood, puberty and lactation.
We encounter these chemicals in commonly used items such as plastic toys, canned foods, personal care items, furniture, and electronics, as well as more generally in contaminated air, water and house dust. Examples of endocrine disruptors include phytoestrogens, diethylstilbestrol (DES), certain pesticides, plasticizers such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, or halogenated hydrocarbons such as dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The molecular structure of an endocrine disruptor often includes a central ring which mimics that found in steroid hormones.
An example of a high volume, endocrine disrupting chemical is bisphenol-A, commonly called “BPA.” BPA, an agonist for nuclear estrogen receptors. The Society of the Plastics Industry introduced today’s recycling code system in 1988,when many communities in the United states were starting recycling programs. the codes - which usually appear on the bottom of bottles and other products - are mainly used to identify which plastics are amenable to recycling. While BPA and phthalates are considered potentially harmful, other chemicals used in plastics manufacture have not been studied as thoroughly and may have unknown effects.
Polycarbonate plastic products are coded with the number 7, the word “Other,” or the initials “PC” (which is specific for polycarbonate). But not all polycarbonates are labeled, because the recycling code system is a voluntary industry system, not federal law. Clear and hard plastics in a variety of colors are likely to be polycarbonate if they have the number 7 on them. It is important to know the codes and avoid products which have the potential of harm.
Be careful with products labeled s no1( mostly soft plastic bottles).They are intended for single use only. Extended use increase the risk of leaching and bacterial overgrowth. Minimize or eliminate use of plastic with codes 3, 6 and 7, Do not use products labeled with no 7, especially baby bottles. Store food and water in glass or stainless steel containers whenever possible. Eliminating or minimizing food packaging (canned food and plastic wrap), a source of BPA and phthalate exposures is important.
Other very common sources of toxin exposure is the growth hormones used in animal feeds and the pesticides used in farming. Exposures can be greatly reduced by eating organic produce and using milk from grass feed cows.
Exposure to environmental toxins can come from many sources;
a few, common recommendations are listed below.
• Eat hormone-free meat and dairy
• Reduce consumption of animal fat
• Use stainless steel or glass containers
• Do not microwave in plastic containers
• Eliminate phthalate-containing household items (PVC plastic), toys, personal care products
• Eliminate products containing toxic fragrances.
• Use non-toxic cleaning products
• Avoid chemical based dry cleaning
• Use a water filter which removes chemicals
• Avoid car exhaust and gasoline fumes
There are also several online resources where you can research the products you use as well as the quality of your natural environment. Arming yourself with information can help you to make healthier choices for yourself and your family. In addition, it can give you the tools to encourage companies to change their production practices.
Household Hazardous Substances Database links over 6,000 consumer brands to health effects at www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/products.htm. The Environmental Protection Agency evaluates the risk of exposure to certain contaminants at www.epa.gov/iris; go to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov.