Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Fund Releases Most Comprehensive Report to-Date of Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer, Many in Everyday Use

Mar 19, 2008 - 10:01:46 AM

"State of the Evidence" report describes how early-life exposures are critical to later-life breast cancer risk

( - San Francisco, CA – The Breast Cancer Fund today released "State of the Evidence," a comprehensive report that catalogs and explores the many links between exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation and increased breast cancer risk.

"The picture of breast cancer causation is maddeningly complex – there is no smoking gun, no one chemical or product or even gene that by itself causes breast cancer," said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., Executive Director of the Breast Cancer Fund. "But the trends that have emerged lead us to stop asking IF there is a link between breast cancer and the environment, but to ask how to move forward with the strong and compelling evidence we have now."

The report comes after the U.S. Senate passed legislation on March 6 to strengthen the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The bill included an amendment sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that will require all child care products and children's toys sold throughout the United States to be free of phthalates, a chemical found in many flexible plastics.

"Because phthalates can disrupt the hormones in a child's developing body, they may trigger early puberty or cause reproductive harm," said Rizzo. "The U.S. Senate is now on record that parents shouldn't have to worry that their children's toys might be harmful."

Phthalates and a host of other chemicals have been shown to mimic or alter the activities of the natural hormones and potentially increase breast cancer risk. Endocrine disruptors may be found in pesticides, plastics, detergents, industrial solvents, tobacco smoke, prescription drugs, food additives and personal care products.

In the new report, the Breast Cancer Fund provides the most comprehensive listing to-date of chemicals linked to breast cancer, including natural and synthetic estrogens; xenoestrogens and other endocrine-disrupting compounds; carcinogenic chemicals and radiation. This exhaustive catalog provides a much more complex picture of breast cancer causation than traditionally accepted, one in which timing, mixtures and dose of environmental exposures interact with genes and lifestyle factors.

A major trend arising from the report is that early-life exposures to endocrine disruptors—particularly during gestation and childhood, but also continuing through first childbirth and breastfeeding—are critical to later-life breast cancer risk. These compounds have yet to be classified as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) or the National Toxicology Program (NTP), event though recent studies show an explicit health risk.

Among the risks discussed in State of the Evidence 2008 are bisphenol A, a component of hard plastic found in some popular water bottles and baby bottles that was originally developed as a synthetic estrogen; the pesticides DDT and atrazine; air pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons; hormone replacement therapy; and ionizing radiation. The report also highlights that early puberty, influenced by a variety of factors including phthalates, is itself a risk factor for later-life breast cancer.

"The mass of data on timing of exposure is extraordinary from a scientist's perspective, and scary from a personal perspective," said Janet Gray, Ph.D., editor of State of the Evidence 2008. "We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to take action now that may prevent them from a breast cancer diagnosis in 10, 20 or 50 years. The science is there to support change, and lawmakers, researchers and industries are beginning to recognize this.”

This report, which cites more than 400 epidemiological and experimental studies, was edited by Janet Gray, Ph.D., of Vassar College and reviewed by experts in medicine and science, including Kristan Aronson, Ph.D., Queen's University, Canada; Devra Lee Davis, Ph.D., M.P.H., University of Pittsburgh; Suzanne E. Fenton, Ph.D., NHEERL, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Annie J. Sasco, M.D., Dr.P.H., Université Victor Segalen Bordeaux 2, France; and Ana Soto, M.D., Tufts University School of Medicine.

The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working exclusively to identify and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. Visit to download State of the Evidence 2008, order printed copies, read policy and research recommendations and find information for consumers, including downloadable tables that synthesize information about chemicals found in pesticides, air pollution, plastics, household cleaning products and cosmetics.

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