Bisphenol A alternatives contained in “BPA-free” products could be more dangerous than BPA 

Last year, Breast Cancer UK awarded a research grant to Dr Michael Antoniou, along with his research associate Dr Robin Mesnage, at King’s College London, to evaluate the endocrine disrupting properties of herbicides and compounds used to make plastics. In this science blog, Dr Mesnage explains the background to their most recent findings which have just been published as a preprint.

More than 80 years ago, bisphenol A (BPA) was discovered to have oestrogen hormone mimicking effects. Discarded by the pharmaceutical industry, it was nonetheless used as a plasticizer and added to polycarbonate plastic or epoxy resins for decades, before some researchers rediscovered its ability to disturb the hormonal system. Thousands of studies are now reporting adverse health effects of BPA in humans, including reproductive and neurobehavioural disorders. Due to mounting evidence of harm and public pressure, BPA is being phased out by plastics’ manufacturers and “BPA-free” products are now abounding in supermarkets.  What if BPA was only the tip of the iceberg?

The way plastic is manufactured has not changed significantly and new bisphenols have been introduced to replace BPA. We are getting exposed to BPS, BPAP, BPAF, BPB, BPZ… the list growing with the imagination of industry chemists. These compounds are already widely found in human urine, raising questions about their safety. BPA alternatives are structurally related to BPA and we, at King’s college London, wondered if they could have comparable endocrine disrupting effects. In order to test our hypothesis, we have compared the endocrine disrupting effects of the most common BPA alternatives on breast cancer cells.

We used a wide range of technologies to monitor the function of breast cancer cells exposed to BPA alternatives. We investigated if the BPA alternatives were able to increase the proliferation of the breast cancer cells. This is a hallmark of two thirds of breast cancers which have their proliferation driven by oestrogen receptor alpha activation. Our findings revealed that all BPA alternatives were able to substitute for oestradiol in promoting cell growth through oestrogen receptors in human breast cancer cells. The activities of all the genes were monitored using a technique known as transcriptional profiling, which measures the activity of thousands of genes simultaneously. The breast cancer cells exposed to BPA alternatives displayed the hallmarks (or signature) of endocrine disrupting effects through oestrogen receptors. Surprisingly, BPAF, BPB and BPZ, contained in “BPA-free” plastics, were more oestrogenic than BPA.

Our discovery has critical value for society. This is why we decided to publish the study prior to peer-review (1). We believe that public health data should be made public as soon as possible. We encourage all scientists to do the same. Sharing scientific discoveries before they get published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, where it is not possible to amend them, also improves the quality of the studies because it allows a critical input from the scientific community.

The research carried out by our team at King’s College London, reveal that BPA-free products are not necessarily safer. BPA is the tip of the iceberg. Our discovery has profound consequences, both at the scientific and societal level. The clinical relevance in hormone-dependent breast cancer progression should be investigated. A global push to remove all bisphenols from consumer products would be necessary to protect the health of the population.

 

  1. Robin Mesnage, Alexia Phedonos, Matthew Arno, Sucharitha Balu, J. Christopher Corton, and Michael N Antoniou (2017). Transcriptome profiling reveals bisphenol A alternatives activate estrogen receptor alpha in human breast cancer cells. BioRxiv preprint posted March 2, 2017. http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/03/02/112862

Related Articles

6 March 2020

Women scientists rock!

To celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), and to mark the start of British science week, we wanted to give a shout out to all the female scientists out there, working...

Read full story

14 February 2020

An Alternative Valentine’s Day Celebration

It’s that time of year again, when every shop window display turns red and you can’t get a table at a restaurant for love nor money! Yes, it’s Valentine’s...

Read full story

7 February 2020

Veganuary – piece of cake!

As record numbers signed up for Veganuary this year, our Ambassador manager decided to try it out and, as a healthy eater, she thought it couldn't be that difficult. But things...

Read full story

4 February 2020

Putting Prevention First

Today is World Cancer Day – and as Public Affairs Officer for Breast Cancer UK, I will campaign to “Put Prevention First” to decrease the incidence of breast cancer. That...

Read full story

A donation of just £5 can help us reach out to new mums with educational information and guidance on how they can protect the future health of their children.

Donate £5

A donation of £30 can help provide a Breast Cancer Prevention kit to help our Ambassadors deliver talks, providing healthy lifestyle advice and practical tips that can help people reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Donate £30

Your donation of £100 can help train one of our PhD students, who work on vital research which aims to understand the causes of breast cancer and identify risk factors.

Donate £100

Just want to help in some way? donate an amount that feels right for you

Start Your Donation

Donate Now

Make a Donation

Share:

My One Time Donation

I want to make a one time donation of

Thank you. You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

My Monthly Donation

I want to make a monthly donation of

Thank you. You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

One Time Donation Monthly Donation
Make a donation with Gift Aid

Gift Aid is reclaimed by the Breast Cancer UK from the tax that I pay for the current tax year. If I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations, it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Breast Cancer UK will reclaim 25p in tax back for every £1 I donate.

Your payment details

Donation Allocation (Optional)

Additional Comments (Optional)

Stay in Touch

We’d love to keep you posted on how your support can make a difference to Breast Cancer UK and the exciting ways you can support us in the future.

Please tick if you’re happy to receive information from us by:

By completing an online donation, your data will be handled in accordance with the Breast Cancer UK’s privacy policy, and the privacy policy of our payment processing supplier BBMS (a Blackbaud company).

You must fill out all required fields before paying.

Processing...

Need help making your donation?

If you need help to make a donation or have any questions about making one, please do not hesitate to contact us…

Call 08456801322