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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Breast Cancer associated with higher concentrations of Phthalates

A recent study in Mexico revealed that certain phthalates are associated with increased incidence of breast cancer. The study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal reviewed the phthalate urine concentrations of 454 Mexican women (223 with breast cancer and 221 as controls) and found a link between higher concentrations of phthalates and breast cancer incidence.

Phthalates are a group of compounds commonly found in artificial fragrances, deodorant, perfume, nail polish and certain plastic food packaging including articles such as baby bottles. Previous to this study, research indicated that this group of compounds has potential to affect the hormone system (endocrine disrupting effect). The exact link between this effect of phthalates and breast cancer has not yet been established however, the authors of the study suggest that it could be related to the DNA damaging effects of phthalates on breast cells.

Interestingly while some phthalate compounds (Monoethyl phthalate (MEP), which is a metabolite of diethyl phthalate (DEP)) were positively associated with higher breast cancer incidence, a number of other phthalate metabolites, including monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP) and mono(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate (MCPP), negatively correlate with breast cancer. The researchers suggest this is due to the ability of certain phthalate compounds to change gene expression without altering the genetic code of the cell.

As with all preliminary studies such as this one, it is important to note that while phthalates are associated with higher incidence of breast cancer, they aren’t necessarily responsible for the development of the cancer itself. Further studies in broader population groups will help establish a link, or not. Authors noted that additional research is need to identify the source of phthalate exposure, be it cosmetics, plastic packaging or a combination of many sources.

Source: Environmental Health Perspectives Journal

Exposure to Phthalates and Breast Cancer Risk in Northern Mexico
Lizbeth López-Carrillo, Raúl U. Hernández-Ramírez, Antonia M. Calafat, Luisa Torres-Sánchez, Marcia Galván-Portillo, Larry L. Needham, Rubén Ruiz-Ramos, Mariano E. Cebrián