The researchers consolidated the identified chemicals into 17 high-priority groups that may cause breast cancer in women.
Gasoline and other chemicals formed by combustion, such as benzene and butadiene, were found to be the greatest carcinogens associated with breast cancer.
The greatest sources of breast cancer carcinogens in the environment were found to be gasoline and chemicals created by combustion, such as benzene and butadiene. Such chemicals are present in vehicle fuel, lawn equipment, tobacco smoke and burned or charred food.
Solvents including methylene chloride and other halogenated organic solvents – often found in industrial degreasers, speciality cleaners and spot removers – were found to be other breast cancer-causing chemicals.
Other mammary carcinogens include chemicals found in flame retardants, stain-resistant textiles, hormone replacement therapy and drinking water disinfection byproducts.
The team found biomarkers in urine, blood and other samples for 62 of the 102 high-priority breast cancer carcinogens identified that could be used to measure women’s exposure. They discovered that techniques used in rodents could be used to identify a further 11 chemicals in humans.
Study author Julia Brody, PhD, executive director at Silent Spring Institute, says that the association between toxic chemicals and breast cancer has “largely been ignored” so far, adding:
“Reducing chemical exposures could save many, many women’s lives. When you talk to people about breast cancer prevention, chemical exposure often isn’t even on their radar. Studies that address toxic chemical exposure account for just a drop in the bucket of money spent on breast cancer.”
However, this latest research could change this. The NIH plan to use the findings in their upcoming study of sisters involving more than 50,000 women, which will look into the causes of great cancer.
“This paper is a thorough review of toxicology data and biomarkers relevant to breast cancer in humans,” says Dale Sandler, PhD, chief of epidemiology at NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and researcher involved in the forthcoming study.
“It’s a terrific resource for epidemiologists thinking about studying environmental contributors to breast cancer or trying to understand the associations they see in their questionnaire data. This is a valuable compendium that should help me in my work with the Sister Study cohort.”
Steps to reduce exposure to mammary carcinogens
But for now, the researchers say there are a number of things women can do to reduce their risk of exposure to mammary carcinogens, including:
- Limiting exposure to fumes from gasoline
- Limiting exposure to exhaust from diesel and other fuel combustion, such as from vehicles or generators
- Use electric instead of gas-powered lawn mowers
- Use a ventilation fan when cooking and reduce consumption of charred or burned food
- Avoid stain-resistant rugs, fabrics and furniture
- Use a solid carbon block drinking water filter
- Remove shoes at the door, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and clean with wet rags and mops to reduce exposure to chemicals in house dust.
Medical News Today recently reported on a study from the National Cancer Institute, which suggested that contrary to previous research, fertility drugs may not increase the risk of breast cancer.
Written by Honor Whiteman