On November 11, 2013 the news provider Agence France-Presse (AFP) published an article reporting on the initial results of an epidemiological study investigating environmental causes of breast cancer. As reported by the AFP journalist Kerry Sheridan, environmental chemicals are likely to play a major role in breast cancer development. Leslie Reinlib, program director at the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) considers that around 80% of breast cancer cases are caused by environmental factors. Kerry Sheridan reports that all 1 200 girls enrolled since 2004 in the study had measurable levels of phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) and pesticides. The scientists involved in the U.S. Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) observed breast feeding and water consumption of non-granular activated carbon filtered water have an important influence on perfluorinated octanoic acid (PFOA) levels. PFOA is used to produce non-stick coating for pans. While 40 % of the girls were already in puberty by age 8, phthalate levels could not be linked to early puberty onset. The investigation combines an epidemiological study design with animal tests. In mice, tumors developed much faster in high-fat diet groups, likely due to increased blood supply, higher inflammation levels and immunologic changes also observed by the researchers. Follow-ups showed that the high cancer risks pertain, even if the high fat diet is replaced by a low fat diet after puberty. Richard Schwartz, microbiologist at Michigan State University, U.S., advises maintaining a normal weight and avoiding chemical exposure wherever possible.
Kerry Sheridan (November 11, 2013). “Surprises in hunt for environmental link to breast cancer.”