Medical science knows what breast cancer is. But is it possible that there are some things present around us every day that can contribute to cancer, and yet we are unaware?
We are vulnerable to several chemicals in our daily life. The air we breathe has nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and many more; we take chemicals in the form of medication, and even our water is chemical-induced.
Can The Chemicals Around Us Every Day Cause Breast Cancer?
There are laws such as the Toxic Substances Control Act under which chemical-induced goods are tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency to secure the safety of consumers. But, is it still possible for them to leave out something?
Two curious minds, Newton-based Silent Spring Institute’s research director, Ruthann Rudel, and Bethsaida Cardona, a Silent Spring scientist conducted a study trying to find a solution to this same question. They aimed to identify the causes of breast cancer that are present around us. They studied data of 2,000 chemicals noted as chemicals with means to cause haphazard under EPA’s Toxicity Forecaster.
They studied the chemicals and found out that around 296 chemicals caused an increase in levels of estrogen and progesterone, which is the female sex hormone. 71 of these chemicals used in pesticides, dyes, chemical flame retardants, etc which caused a rise in both hormone levels.
Malathion is an insecticide used commonly for mosquito control. Oxyfluorfen is a herbicide used for weed control, while 1,2-Diphenylhydrazine is used to produce dyes. It was suggested that when such chemicals enter our bodies and cause a rise in levels of both hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, are linked to breast cancer.
There have been studies in the past that give us the same idea. One study suggested that breast cancer can be prevented by reducing levels of estradiol, which is a form of estrogen. Another trial conducted a research where estrogen and progesterone were mixed in a hormone replacement therapy, and they found it increased the risk of breast cancer. However, scientists are still trying to find a link.
But how do these hormones cause breast cancer? According to the American Cancer Society, a majority of breast cancer cases are HR-positive. It means that sex hormones send chemical signals to the cells that could stimulate their growth. Estrogen can stimulate tissues in the breast leading cells to divide and cause mutations. Breast cancer that is progesterone receptor-positive is sensitive to progesterone. Receptors in these cells motivate using this hormone to develop.
Dr. Lauren Teras, Ph.D., and American Cancer Society’s scientific director said that the role of environmental substances that can cause it are still poorly known. She further added that the results of the study were not surprising. Science is yet to learn about the connection between the environment and human health.
Rudel said that the testing methods used to ensure chemical safety are missing out on the breast-related effects. She said that this study opened her eyes to the fact that approaches that should be used for testing chemicals are missing the risks of breast cancer because we aren’t paying attention to them.
Experts advise the development of methods that consider potential breast cancer threats when testing the chemicals. They also recommend limited exposure to such chemicals, especially in delicate times like puberty and pregnancy. If there are companies that use chemicals that stimulate estrogen and progesterone levels then they should investigate it and tease it out. If they find them to be safe, they can continue their use by taking responsibility.
A more thorough approach is still necessary to understand the role chemicals around us play in the development of breast cancer, and further what can be done to prevent it.
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