Tags: Cancer | ddt | breast | cancer | prenatal | pesticide

Pesticide Exposure Boosts Breast Cancer Risk

By    |   Tuesday, 16 June 2015 02:34 PM

A new 54-year-long study has directly connected breast cancer risk to prenatal exposure to the pesticide DDT.

The study, published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found women who were exposed to higher levels of the pesticide DDT in utero were nearly four times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as adults than women who were exposed to lower levels before birth.

Many women who were exposed in utero in the 1960s, when the pesticide was used widely in the United States, are now reaching the age of heightened breast cancer risk. Researchers said the study findings offer women, and their doctors, another factor to consider when identifying women who may be at risk for breast cancer — in addition to genetics, diet, activity levels, and lifestyle factors.

“This 54-year study is the first to provide direct evidence that chemical exposures for pregnant women may have lifelong consequences for their daughters' breast cancer risk,' said study authors, Barbara A. Cohn, of the Public Health Institute in Berkeley, Calif. “Environmental chemicals have long been suspected causes of breast cancer, but until now, there have been few human studies to support this idea.”

Despite being banned by many countries in the 1970s, DDT remains widespread in the environment and continues to be used in Africa and Asia.

DDT was among the first recognized endocrine disruptors — chemicals that can mimic and interfere with the function of the hormone estrogen. Past studies have found DDT exposure is linked to birth defects, reduced fertility and increased risk for Type 2 diabetes.

The latest study tracked the daughters of women who participated in the long-running Child Health and Development Studies for 54 years beginning in utero. Researchers studied 20,754 pregnancies among women who were members of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan from 1959 through 1967.

To determine levels of DDT exposure in utero, the researchers analyzed blood samples from mothers in the study during pregnancy or in the days immediately after delivery. The researchers the monitored the daughters born to those women who later developed breast cancer.

The results showed women whose mothers had elevated levels of DDT during pregnancy were nearly four times as likely to develop breast cancer. Among the women who were diagnosed with breast cancer, 83 percent had estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer — a form of cancer that may receive signals from the hormone estrogen to promote tumor growth.

Researchers also determined that exposure to higher levels of DDT was associated with women being diagnosed with a more advanced stage of cancer or a form known as HER2-positive breast cancer — where the cancer cells have a gene mutation that produces an excess of a specific protein. Past studies have suggested DDT activates a protein linked to HER2 breast cancer tumors.

“This study calls for a new emphasis on finding and controlling environmental causes of breast cancer that operate in the womb,” Cohn said. “Our findings should prompt additional clinical and laboratory studies that can lead to prevention, early detection and treatment of DDT-associated breast cancer in the many generations of women who were exposed in the womb.

"We also are continuing to research other chemicals to see which may impact breast cancer risk among our study participants.”

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Prenatal exposure to high levels of the pesticide DDT has been found to greatly increase the risk of developing breast cancer later in life.
ddt, breast, cancer, prenatal, pesticide
Tuesday, 16 June 2015 02:34 PM
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