A recent study suggests that exposure to certain endocrine-disrupting chemicals like PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) and BPA (phenols) found in everyday use products like plastics, nonstick cookware, dyes and may be playing a role in cancers of the breast, ovary, skin and uterus in women.
PFAS is referred to as 'forever chemicals' and has contaminated water, food and people through products such as Teflon pans, waterproof clothing, stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, and food packaging.
While it does not prove that exposure to chemicals like PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) and phenols (including BPA) led to these cancer diagnoses, researchers found that women who developed those cancers have significantly higher levels of these chemicals in their bodies.
The study, published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, showed that women in particular who were more exposed to PFDE, a long-chain PFAS compound, were twice as likely to have a previous melanoma (form of skin cancer) diagnosis.
While the women with higher exposure to two other long-chained PFAS compounds, PFNA (Proximal Femoral Nail Antirotation) and PFUA (Perfluoroundecanoic acid) had nearly double the odds of a prior melanoma diagnosis.
Researchers analysed blood and urine samples from more than 10,000 people and found a link between PFNA and a prior diagnosis of uterine cancer. They found that women with higher exposure to phenols, such as BPA (used in plastics) and 2,5-dichlorophenol (a chemical used in dyes and found as a by-product in wastewater treatment), had higher odds of prior ovarian cancer diagnoses.
“These findings highlight the need to consider PFAS and phenols as whole classes of environmental risk factors for cancer risk in women,” said Max Aung, Associate Professor of environmental health at University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.
Researchers also identified that associations between various PFAS and ovarian and uterine cancers were observed only among white women, while associations between a PFAS called MPAH and a phenol called BPF and breast cancer were observed only among non-white women.
“As communities around the country grapple with PFAS contamination, this adds further evidence that supports policymakers developing action to reduce PFAS exposure,” said Tracey J Woodruff, professor at University of California's San Francisco.