Could a Chemical from Plastic Contribute to Breast Cancer?

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Scientists are always on the lookout for new, potential threats to our health, such as elements that can contribute to cancer. Unfortunately, it looks like another threat has been added to the breast cancer-causing list: a pseudo-estrogen known as “bisphenol-A” (a variant of bisphenol sulphate or BPA) that comes from certain plastics and specifically affects breast cancer tumor cells.

 According to a new study out of the U.S. that is being published in the October issue of Chemistry & Biology, BPA could play a potential role in the occurrence of breast cancer, as it is involved in a biological mechanism that allows the substance to build up in breast cancer tumor cells. It turns out that healthy cells most likely don’t absorb BPA, so it’s always been thought that the chemical is probably harmless when it comes to human health.

 Unfortunately, breast cancer tumor cells don’t act like healthy cells do, so it’s a whole different ballgame when it comes to bisphenol-A. It turns out that breast cancer cells actually convert BPA back into bisphenol-A. This substance — after it’s been converted into bisphenol-A — then gets absorbed by the tumor cells. It’s a process that could have a contributing effect on breast cancer.

 This finding is an important first step that will undoubtedly contribute to the heavy debate centered on BPA and human health. Previous animal studies have already touched upon the threat that BPA poses to prostate cancer cells. Fetal exposure to BPA has also been linked to birth defects and mental retardation in children. This is the first study that has looked directly at human breast cancer tumor cells and BPA.

 So just what is BPA, exactly? It’s a component in raw plastic material that’s used to manufacture hard, clear plastic products. It can be used in the making of literally countless products, from food-storage containers to water bottles and even baby bottles. It’s labeled as a pseudo- estrogen since it’s a synthetic element that human cells can take it in and then trigger estrogenic effects. In normal healthy cells, this doesn’t happen, but in cancer cells, it turns out that BPA does indeed get uploaded — and this opens up the door to a lot of dangerous complications that need to be explored further.

 The researchers did note that they only discovered BPA being present in the cancer cells — not whether or not it actually contributed to the promotion or triggering of breast cancer occurring. If the biological mechanism actually happens in real life is hard to tell, and further research is need to provide a clear answer. They also added that there’s no need to start panicking over BPA just yet: they only found the presence of the mechanism, and there’s a lot more to discover about it still.

 Keep in mind that BPA isn’t the only synthetic pseudo- estrogen present in our environment — we face a lot of different variations, along with natural versions, every day that could negatively affect our health. The plastics industry stands behind the claim that BPA does not pose a risk, backing up that claim with their studies (which you should always approach critically).

However, as a consumer — and the first line of defense when it comes to your health — you should remain aware that there is still no real, clear answer when it comes to BPA and its true effects on human health. Stay educated, make safe consumer choices, and I’ll keep you posted on any updates on this chemical as they come up.