Breast Defense: Chemicals and the Environment

Breast Defense: Chemicals and the Environment

Angie Cho
Oct 14, 2010

It's Breast Cancer Month so it's time to raise awareness and share information on this far-reaching disease (1 in 8 women). You may already know the classic advice for preventing breast cancer like eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, managing weight, and breast feeding. In addition, it might be wise to adopt another strategy: avoiding environmental toxins. Read more for a quicklist of potential culprits.

The Skinny Science:
There are two main types of breast cancer: ductal and lobular carcinomas. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type, occurring in the ducts that move milk to the nipple. The second type, lobular carcinoma, occurs in the parts of the breast that produce milk, the lobules. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women.

Word to the Wise:
While the scientific community has not identified definitive links between breast cancer and chemicals like BPA (bisphenol A) and dioxin, there is evidence for concern. Here is a quicklist of the top chemicals that are listed as potential culprits:

1. Bisphenol A (BPA) is estrogenic. Industry likes BPA because it's a versatile plastic with widespread use — usually #7 plastic. You'll find it lining canned food and drinks, on thermal receipts, and as food containers.

2. PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are endocrine disruptors. Manufacturers like it for its flame retardant property. You'll find it in furniture foam, like cushions and mattresses.

3. Tetrachloroethylene (PERC) can cause skin irritation, dizziness and headaches. Dry-cleaners use this to "clean" clothes.

4. Alkylphenols are endocrine disruptors. They are industrial chemicals used to produce various detergents, cleaning products, and personal care products.

5. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors. They're found in PVC and used in #3 plastic.

6. Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor. Dioxin is produced as a byproduct of industrial processes like smelting, bleaching, and manufacturing herbicides and pesticides.

7. Styrene is a known human carcinogen. You'll find it in #6 plastic where it leaches from styrofoam, disposable cups and bowls, and opaque plastic utensils.

As always, stay informed, be conscious of cumulative exposure, and green your routine to what fits you best.

Extra Tidbits:
  • 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • For more information, check out these sources: Whole Living, National Cancer Institute.

Previous Decoding Household Chemical Posts:
  • What is BPA, a.k.a. Bisphenol A?
  • The Secret Chemicals in Fragrances
  • Hygiene Products for Dummies: Cosmetic Safety Database
  • What is Dioxin? How to Avoid Toxin Dioxin
  • The Dirt on Bleach: What makes Chlorine Bleach Bad News?
  • What is Triclosan? A Shady Chemical You should Unfriend

(Image: Flickr member waterrose licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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