While no decision has been made, many studies point to environmental factors as a contributor in the increase of breast cancer cases. As more research delves into the causes of the disease, the importance of monitoring the role of environmental factors cannot be ignored. The incidences of breast cancer are on the rise, and with no significant increase in genetic predisposition, we begin to look more closely at the products we use on our bodies and in our homes, what we consume and how each of these is packaged.
One possible contributors that has come under a lot scrutiny asto the formation of cancerous cells are Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). While no conclusive proof has come to light, understanding more about these chemicals will help you make informed decisions.
What is the endocrine system?
The main function of the endocrine system is communication. Through production in the glands and the release of various hormones, the endocrine system regulates almost every biological process in the human body: physical growth and development, mental development, mood and memory, sexual development and immune function. When hormones don’t function properly, these processes can be negatively affected.
What are endocrine disruptors and where are they found?
Synthetic endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are chemical compounds in preservatives and plasticizers. Found in everyday cleaning and personal care products, EDCs manipulate the normal function of a hormone. Certain types of EDCs, such as phthalates and parabens, mimic estrogen when absorbed in the body, and have been linked to the development of breast cancer.
EDCs are found in many household products, in foods, and in their packaging. To name a few, EDCs can be found in plastics (especially those containing Bisphenol A, or BPA, and phthalates), pesticides, certain metals, and in fragrances in cosmetics and cleaning products. Paradoxically, smaller amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals are more readily absorbed in the system, whereas larger amounts can overwhelm the endocrine system, allowing limited absorption and having little to no affect on the system. To date, safety testing of chemicals has assumed that low doses are not harmful if higher doses do not show effects, and most EDCs have not been thoroughly tested for health effects at low exposures. Precisely for this reason – that they contain smaller amounts EDCs, exposure to certain pesticides, cleaning products, and plastics, are most concerning.
Endocrine disruptors and breast cancer: what’s the connection?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency:
Reported increases in incidences of certain cancers (breast, testes, prostate) may also be related to endocrine disruption. Because the endocrine system plays a critical role in normal growth, development, and reproduction, even small disturbances in endocrine function may have profound and lasting effects… The seriousness of the endocrine disruptor hypothesis and the many scientific uncertainties associated with the issue are sufficient to warrant a coordinated federal research effort.
While more research needs to be done, studies increasingly point to exposure to EDCs as a factor in the formation of cancerous cells.
Largely, the risk connected to endocrine-disrupting chemicals exposure is unclear; however, caution is advised, especially for women. EDCs appear to have the greatest effect on women in utero, during puberty, and during the perinatal phase (the last trimester of pregnancy until one to four weeks post-delivery), because these are times of great developmental change, particularly in the mammary glands. While other risk factors play a significant role in the development of breast cancer, environmental factors can no longer be ignored.
How to avoid exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals
The best way to maintain limited exposure to EDCs is by educating yourself on what to look for in products and foods.
• Buy organic whenever possible, as pesticides have been linked to the development of cancerous cells.
• Look for green cleaning products, or make your own at home. Simple ingredients you have in your pantry can be just as effective as those you’d find in the store.
• When buying cleaning products, do your homework! Check for the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the manufacturer website – this document ensures complete disclosure of all ingredients, and lists the International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient (INCI) names, a worldwide dictionary which accurately identifies the composition of personal care product ingredients.
• Take care with food storage. Use glass containers when possible, and when using plastics, stick to number 1 PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which does not leach into products and does not contain BPA. A good rule of thumb is not to heat food in any plastic container, as heat can release chemicals which then leach into foods.
The subject of breast cancer and potential environmental causes is a heavy one, but armed with knowledge, you can make informed decisions to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals and keep you and your family safe.
Article Source: Eco-Me