New Research Links More Than 900 Chemicals to Breast Cancer Risk

Past research has linked certain chemicals – including PFAS or “forever chemicals” – to higher rates of hormone-related cancers in women. Environmental exposures have also been linked to a variety of other cancers. New research aimed to compile a list of all the chemicals that may specifically increase breast cancer risk, and it’s in the hundreds.

Researchers at Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit that primarily focuses on breast cancer prevention, looked at international and U.S. government databases to identify chemicals that have been found to promote mammary tumors in mice, which tends to be a good indicator of human risk. They also used U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data to identify chemicals that may activate the estrogen receptor or promote the production of estrogen or progesterone, which can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Man sprays pesticides on crops

One of the goals was to see how the environment may be impacting breast cancer risk, as the disease has been on the rise in women under 40.

Dr. Jennifer Kay, lead author and research scientist at Silent Spring Institute, says, “We need new tools to identify environmental exposures that could be contributing to this trend so we can develop prevention strategies and reduce the burden of the disease.”

The findings, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, identified more than 900 possible contributors. That included 279 chemicals found to cause mammary tumors in mice, along with 642 that stimulate estrogen or progesterone signaling. The researchers say that 90% of them can be found in in common consumer products, food and beverages, medications, pesticides, and workplaces.

Woman looks at ingredients in household product

When it comes to workplaces, other recent research found that there are many – including those involving hairdressing, beautician work, and retail – linked with a higher risk of ovarian cancer. Substances encountered at those jobs are believed to play a role.

For the Silent Spring study, the researchers say they hope their findings can serve as a springboard for further research on the topic, the testing of chemicals for cancer-causing properties, and the prioritization of certain chemicals for testing of cancer risk. They also say that screening chemicals for their impacts on hormones may be effective for identifying possible breast cancer carcinogens.

They write, “We argue that many of these chemicals should not be considered safer alternatives or low hazard without additional investigation of their ability to impact the breast.”

Cleaning products and gloves sit on table

If you’d like to read the whole study, click here.

People, Pets & Planet

Help where it’s needed most at GreaterGood for free!