Breast cancer increases: are hormone disrupting chemicals the reason? | WWF

Breast cancer increases: are hormone disrupting chemicals the reason?

Posted on 18 October 2006
The case for a strong REACH has never been clearer
© WWF / Andrew KERR

Brussels/London - A new paper concludes that hormone disrupting chemicals (known as EDCs), may be a crucial factor behind the current increase of breast cancer cases. The paper, “Environmental contaminants and breast cancer: the growing concerns about endocrine disrupting chemicals”, has been written by Andreas Kortenkamp, Head of Centre of Toxicology from the School of Pharmacy at London University - an expert on EDC cocktail effects - after WWF UK sought independent scientific advice from him on the subject.

The paper states that less than half of the new breast cancer cases diagnosed can be explained by lifestyle factors and genetics. It argues that the answer to these other increases may lie in hormone disrupting chemicals, with two key factors playing a significant role – first, the “cocktail effect” which is seen when there is simultaneous exposure to several oestrogen mimicking chemicals and secondly, exposure to the chemicals during critical periods, when baby girls are in the womb or during puberty.

As Dr Kortenkamp explained: “A recent study among Spanish women demonstrated that breast cancer risk was associated with the body burden of all estrogenic chemicals, excluding the natural hormones. This is the first evidence that chemicals in our environment, with oestrogenic properties that are ‘accidental’, and not just natural hormones or pharmaceutical oestrogens may contribute to the development of breast cancer.”

The paper highlights the need for strong legislation to control chemicals that have hormone disrupting properties but which are used in everyday products. These chemicals appear in a wide range of products from baby bottles and other plastics to cosmetics. EDCs have been linked to many negative impacts on the health of wildlife – especially in the Arctic – such as impaired reproduction, hormone alterations and cancer.

The EU is currently finalizing a new chemicals law called REACH. WWF has been pushing for REACH to deliver on its original aim: to protect people and the environment from harmful man-made chemicals.

Sandra Jen, Director of WWF’s DetoX Campaign said: “The case for a strong REACH has never been clearer. It would be an outrage for European governments to gamble with the health of their citizens by allowing endocrine disrupting chemicals to continue to be used even where safer alternatives are available. The European Parliament has made it very clear that it wants to substitute hazardous chemicals for safer alternatives and EU ministers must now fully endorse this".

For further information
• Noemi Cano, WWF DetoX Campaign Communications Manager
Tel: +32 (0)479 610451

• Anthony Field, WWF-UK Press Office
Tel: + 44 (0)1483 412379 / +44 (0)7768 867274

Notes to the editors
• A pdf version of the study is available.

The case for a strong REACH has never been clearer
© WWF / Andrew KERR Enlarge