Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer is the most prevalent cancer amongst women in the United States. About 1 in every 8 (12 percent) women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime [4]. The incidence of breast cancer between 1950 and 1989 increased by 53 percent and has been increasing ever since [4]. The incidence of breast cancer is particularly high in developed countries such as the United States. Why might that be the case? It has been shown that xenoestrogens, along with other environmental and genetic factors, can influence the development of breast cancer [5].  Xenobiotics, which include pesticides, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and PAHs (polyaromatic hydrocarbons) are still present in our environment and individuals are exposed to them on a day-to-day basis. These foreign estrogens interact and bind with estrogen receptors within the body and prevent natural estrogen from interacting with these receptors in the natural way they were meant to.

Unfortunately, pesticides and their metabolites typically have long half lives and thus implant themselves within the adipose tissue of males and females and their residues can remain in the body for years after exposure [4,5]. DDT and its metabolite DDE, for example, have very long half-lives and thus can be stored in adipose tissue in the body for extended periods of time. In as study done by Cohn et al. it was found that women born after 1931 had a 5-fold higher risk of developing breast cancer than those born before that time [4].As it turns out, DDT became very popular as a pesticide in 1945, which is when these females would have been about 14, the age of puberty. Thus, this prolonged exposure to DDT during such important years of development significantly increased the risk and incidence of breast cancer in those women. Even though DDT has since been banned, its presence at that time is still rearing its ugly head as it remains stored in the adipose tissue of females.

The image shown above depicts the concentration of DDE and DDT in women under 60-years old and over 60-years old. As mentioned above, the women over 60-years old have an elevated concentration of DDE and DDT stored in their adipose tissue as compared with women younger who were not as highly exposed to the pesticide during the critical years of their lives.

There are other types of pesticides and chemicals that act as foreign estrogens and affect the reproductive health of men and women and these include: chlordane, dieldrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, and hexachloro-cyclohexane (alpha, beta, gamma-HCH) [5]. Atrazine, a persistent pesticide that is widely used in the United States, has been found cause mammary cancer in rats and ovarian cancer in women who live in agricultural areas in Italy [5]. Pesticides acting as xenoestrogens have been found in the breast milk of women from many different countries that are listed below. This is essential information because not only is the mother being affected by xenoestrogens, but those are being transferred to her child. This could potentially set the child up for potential cancers, sterility, and other reproductive issues. Below is a table that shows the concentrations of pesticides in the breast milk of women in several different countries.


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