4 years ago
8 March, 2019
A. Bisphenols are a family of substances that are used in the manufacture of certain types of plastics used to make packaging for food and drink, the most common being BPA. Bisphenols are collectively known as plasticisers.
A. Structurally, bisphenols resemble the hormone oestrogen, which is found mainly in women and is needed for normal body function. As bisphenols are structurally similar to oestrogen, it has been found that they can mimic its effects; that is, bisphenols can behave like oestrogen and can affect the functioning of the body in a similar way to the natural hormone.
Importantly, many breast cancers are hormone dependent; that is, they need oestrogen in order to grow. Since bisphenols can behave like oestrogen, this means that they can also potentially stimulate the growth of hormone dependent breast cancers.
A. Because of concerns about the safety of BPA, plastics manufacturers have begun to replace it with other bisphenols claiming that these substitutes are safer. We are trying to find out if this will be the case. Previous BCUK-funded research showed that 6 BPA substitutes used in plastics manufacture and often found in our bodies can mimic the actions of oestrogen. Indeed, we found that 3 of the BPA substitutes were far more potent at simulating the effects of oestrogen than BPA itself.
The results called into question the claims that the BPA substitutes are safer as, in principle, they could be even more potent. Although research has highlighted the potential for bisphenols to stimulate the growth of pre-existing hormone-dependent breast cancer. What is not clear is if this family of chemicals can give rise to breast cancer in the first place. Our latest BCUK-funded project will be testing to see if mixtures of bisphenols we have worked with before can disrupt the growth of normal breast cancer cells in a manner that would be indicative that they could progress to cancer.
We are working in collaboration with Dr Elisabete Silva at Brunel University London. Dr Silva has already shown that BPA on its own can cause severe disruption to normal breast cancer cell growth, which could lead to a fully blown cancerous state. It is, therefore, possible that a low-dose mixture of bisphenols will be even more capable of disrupting normal breast cancer cell growth with potentially devastating outcomes if this was to happen in people and especially women.
A. Hormones are natural substances in our bodies. The balanced functioning of hormone systems is vital to our health. HDCs disrupt the normal functioning of one or more hormones by either blocking their activity or mimicking (boosting) their effects.
Imbalances in hormone function caused by HDCs can lead to many serious health problems, both physical and behavioural in nature. HDCs begin to exert their effects at the time when the foetus is forming in the mother’s womb, with problems spilling over into later life. Among the illnesses that can arise from HDCs are birth defects, neurological development problems, obesity, diabetes, hormone-dependent cancers, autoimmune disease, infertility, heart disease and ADHD.
As hormones are essential for normal body function, we should not be surprised to find that anything that interferes with their activity can lead to a large array of serious diseases. As a result, it is estimated that illnesses that are either directly caused or aggravated by HDCs cost health services hundreds of billions of euros in Europe (including the UK) and hundreds of billions of dollars in the USA each year!
A. The list of HDCs is huge, growing all the time, and we encounter them on virtually a daily basis both at home and in the environment. Many types of chemicals (pesticides) used in agriculture are HDCs and can be found in food. Within the home, flame retardants applied to furniture are also HDCs. There is evidence that some additives to cosmetics, such as parabens and phthalates, are also HDCs. Bisphenol plasticisers make clear plastic bottles for water, soft and alcoholic drinks—and the plastic that lines food and drink cans and as a coating of thermal receipt papers.
A. HDCs increase the risk of breast cancer in two ways. First, they can contribute to breast cancer formation. Second, they can promote the growth of breast cancer, which has been caused by some other mechanism. HDCs exert these effects by changing the patterns of gene function from a healthy balanced state to an imbalanced state where normal cell growth is replaced with growth that is out of control.
A. Yes. The wide range of illnesses arising from long-term, daily ingestion of HDCs can affect both sexes equally in similar and different ways.
A. We can all reduce our daily exposure to HDCs in several ways. I list some of the easier lifestyle changes to reduce HDC exposure below.
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