Researchers Discover Everyday Chemicals That Contribute To Breast Cancer

Researchers of Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts have recently discovered that exposure to some chemicals that are used in our daily lives can increase the chances of breast cancer.

In an article published in Medical News Today, the researchers have gone through 2000 chemicals in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Toxicity Forecaster to find out the preventable causes of the cancer in women. According to the researchers, chemicals that increase the stimulation of both Estrogen and Progesterone in women were the primary focus of the study.

Ruthann Rudel, the director of research at the institute, said, "In this study, we used new data produced by EPA to identify commonly used chemicals that have been shown to increase the synthesis of estrogen and progesterone in cells in a dish because this is directly relevant to hormone receptor [HR]-positive breast cancer. There's been a fair bit of attention on identifying chemicals that bind to and activate the estrogen receptor — essentially mimicking estrogen — but no one had identified chemicals that increase the synthesis of estrogen or progesterone, so we used the new data to do that."

The researchers linked 296 chemicals that increase estradiol, a form of estrogen, and Progesterone in their cell culture. Of them, 71 chemicals including 1,2-Diphenylhydrazine (Used in dyes and pharmaceuticals), Malathion (found in mosquito repellants), Phosmet (used to protect apple trees), and Oxyfluorfen ( Pesticides) are found to increase both the hormones.

Rudel added "Since many environmental chemicals would not be as strong activators as endogenous estradiol, the weaker activity limited concerns in some assessments. However, since the chemicals we identified to increase the synthesis of estradiol, which is very potent, the effects of these chemicals on breast cancer may be much stronger [than thought]."

According to the American Cancer Society, two out of three breast cancer cases are found to be HR-positive which means that the cells are being encouraged to grow by the sex hormones. Estrogen stimulates the breast tissues to stimulate cell growth and if carcinogenic metabolites are present in the cells, it can result in breast cancer. Similarly, progesterone works similarly with progesterone-receptor-positive cancer cells.

The scientists are not yet certain about how the chemicals are stimulating estradiol secretion, but according to a hypothesis, the chemicals act as aromatase activators and cause increased production of the hormones.

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