Hormone disrupting chemicals are already known to be hazardous to health, as they may interfere with the body’s endocrine system. They have been shown to be linked to adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife and particularly to cancer risk. These chemicals interfere with our hormone systems and any system in the body controlled by hormones, can be affected by hormone disruptors. A new study indicates that some occupations can, through their exposure to such chemicals, make your vulnerability to breast cancer even greater.
How do hormone disruptors affect us?
A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including drugs, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A. Endocrine disruptors such as these can may be found in many everyday products– including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides.
Studies are ongoing to examine the link between endocrine disruptors and several conditions including lowered fertility, an increased incidence of endometriosis and some cancers. Now, a study published in the journal Environmental Health provides further evidence on the link and confirms that certain occupations do pose a higher risk of breast cancer than others, particularly those that expose the worker to potential carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.
Who is at risk?
Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer diagnosis among women in industrialized countries, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens, some of which may not have yet been classified as such, are present in many working environments, particularly in farming and manufacturing.
The study was conducted in Southern Ontario, Canada, and included 1006 breast cancer cases. Using interviews and surveys, the team collected data on participants’ occupational and reproductive histories and all jobs were coded for their likelihood of exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
The result was clear: women in jobs with potentially high exposures to carcinogens and endocrine disrupters had a higher breast cancer risk. The premenopausal breast cancer risk was highest in the car plastics and food canning industries.
The jobs where the risk was high included agriculture, bars, clubs and casinos, car plastics manufacturing, food canning and metal-working.
What can you do?
Clearly if you are at high risk already, then if you work in any of these industries changing your job may be a sensible option. There is now mounting evidence that suggests a need to re-evaluate work exposure limits in the workplace that are not adequately dealt with in current legislation.
There are excellent support networks for those at breast cancer risk and there are ways to be proactive and minimise that risk as much as possible. The most important element is to good progesterone levels to deal with oestrogen dominance and reduce the risk of cancer.