SCIENCE NEWS: New study to investigate bisphenol links to breast cancer. | Breast Cancer UK

SCIENCE NEWS: New study to investigate bisphenol links to breast cancer.

Published 8 Mar 2018

Breast Cancer UK is pleased to announce an award of £45,000 to Dr Michael Antoniou and Dr Robin Mesnage of King’s College London, to investigate whether mixtures of bisphenols are likely to increase breast cancer risk.

Bisphenols are synthetic chemicals used in the manufacture of plastic bottles and food containers, resins and plastic lining of cans, from where they leach into food and drink. The first bisphenol used for such purposes was bisphenol A (BPA), which is classified as an oestrogenic endocrine disrupting chemical and a reproductive toxicant and is suspected of increasing breast cancer risk (1). As a result of public concerns and stricter legislation, BPA is being phased out of many consumer products and being replaced with other chemically related bisphenols.

With support from Breast Cancer UK, Dr Antoniou and Dr Mesnage showed recently that “bisphenol substitutes” also possess oestrogenic activity, and some are even more oestrogenic than BPA and so, potentially, more harmful (2).

The new research builds on these findings and will assess the breast cancer-causing and growth stimulating properties of a mixture of bisphenol substitutes, using cultures of human breast epithelial cells, which can form 3-dimensional breast-like cellular structures known as “mammospheres” (3). These are more representative of breast architecture than standard breast cell culture systems, as they can reproduce features of malignant changes which can be observed microscopically and monitored using molecular biology methods.

Mixtures of endocrine disrupting chemicals, including those with an oestrogenic capability, can have potent biological effects at concentrations at which they are inactive when tested individually (4). Bisphenol mixtures at different concentrations will be tested for oestrogenic effects.

The study will help identify potential risks arising from ingestion of bisphenols in foodstuffs that can potentially lead to, or promote growth of, breast cancer.

The project will begin in April, and is expected to last two years. It will involve collaboration with a previous Breast Cancer UK grant recipient Dr Elisabete Silva, from Brunel University, who will assist with development of the 3- dimensional breast cell culture system.


1. Breast Cancer UK awarded a grant of £45,000 to Dr Michael Antoniou (PI) and Dr Robin Mesnage (co-PI) to “Evaluate the cancer-causing potential of bisphenol combinations in primary mammary epithelial cells”

2. For details of Dr Antoniou’s previous research funded by Breast Cancer UK please see here


1. Wang Z. et al. (2017). Low-Dose Bisphenol A Exposure: A Seemingly Instigating Carcinogenic Effect on Breast Cancer. Advanced Science (Wein.) 4(2): 1600248.

2. Mesnage, R. et al. (2017). Editor’s Highlight: Transcriptome Profiling Reveals Bisphenol A Alternatives Activate Estrogen Receptor Alpha in Human Breast Cancer Cells. Toxicological Sciences 158(2): 431-443.

3. Marchese, S. and Silva, E. (2012). Disruption of 3D MCF-12A breast cell cultures by estrogens--an in vitro model for ER-mediated changes indicative of hormonal carcinogenesis. PLoS One 7(10): e45767.

4. Silva, E. et al. (2002). Something from “nothing” - eight weak estrogenic chemicals combined at concentrations below NOECs produce significant mixture effects. Environmental Science and Technology 36: 1751–1756.

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