Xenoestrogens – Linked To Cancer
A large number of cancers are categorised as being hormonally responsive, and the hormone responsible in many of these cases is estrogen. Commonly known as the female sex hormone, estrogen is a major driver of many cancers for both men and women. Breast cancer, endometrial, cervical, ovarian, colon, brain tumours and testicular and prostate cancer are just some examples. Estrogen has been found to be the culprit behind even some lung cancers.
Estrogen is actually not a single hormone, but a family of hormones with varying chemical strengths. Some are dangerous, others are less so. Estradiol, an aggressive form of estrogen, is one troublemaker. Research shows that some prostate cancers are driven by a chemical called DHT – produced when estradiol attacks the male hormone, testosterone.
Two in three breast cancers are driven by estrogen, specifically estradiol. This troublesome hormone can cause healthy cells to mutate and stem cells to stay in their rapidly dividing state. It can lower oxygen levels in the cell by 40 per cent, cause malfunctioning of the transport systems across the cell membrane, poison the cell and even help the spread of the cancer message. Trouble starts when dangerous forms of estrogen bind to cell receptor sites, feeding the cancer.
When you have an estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) cancer, you need to avoid adding to the estrogen pool in your body. However, we are constantly exposed to chemicals in our environment, personal care products, household products and our foods which act like estrogen in the body. Examples of some external estrogen-like chemicals are pesticides, BPA, phthalates, toluene, perfumes, and parabens. These exogenous estrogens are called xenoestrogens. Some can be just as harmful as the more aggressive natural estrogens like estradiol.
Xenoestrogens are not the same as phytoestrogens, which are natural estrogens or estrogen-mimics derived from plants. Typically, xenoestrogens are far more potent and dangerous. They can wreak havoc on our endocrine system, creating a host of health problems.
What are some sources of xenoestrogens? Here are some bad guys to watch out for:
Nail varnishes and cleaners – these may contain xylene, formaldehyde and toluene, ingredients associated with health risks like damage to DNA and the liver, skin and respiratory irritation, and neurotoxins. Toulene, an estrogen-mimic, also affects the endocrine system.
Perfume and products with synthetic fragrances – these can be a mixture of over 100 different ingredients, and they are not all required to be named on the label. You need to be vigilant, as several are potent endocrine system disrupters and estrogen mimics. Toluene, for instance, is used in the manufacture of many perfumes.
Swedish research shows that 75 per cent of ordinary, everyday perfumed products used on the body produced DEHP – a very powerful estrogen mimic – once in the blood stream. The researchers discovered that that three-quarters of toiletry products tested contained DEHP and phthalates. Synthetic fragrances, perfumed body sprays, hairsprays and hair products were the main culprits. US research with pregnant women found that DEHP was so powerful that 11 per cent of male offspring born to mothers with high DEHP levels had genital defects. Another study concluded that some testicular cancers can start in the womb because of the use of synthetic fragrances or other xenoestrogens on the skin during pregnancy.
Men should not be complacent as DEHP is also found in soaps, shaving foam and aftershave. Practically all these products contain synthetic perfumes.
Cleaning agents, textiles, plastics, cosmetics and some kinds of paper – these are typical sources of a chemical called 4-nonylphenol (4-NP), an endocrine disrupter as well as an estrogen-mimic. 4-nonylphenol has proven to be a breast cancer threat , as reported by the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2005. It has also been reported to affect semen quality.
Plastics and plastic additives – bisphenol A (BPA) is an ingredient previously used as a fungicide which is now used to manufacture many plastics and plastic additives. It is an endocrine disrupter, mimicking hormones like estrogen. Epoxy resins containing bisphenol A are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans, including bottle caps. Even water supply lines are coated with this chemical.
Bisphenol A is a key component in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, a clear and nearly shatter-proof plastic used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics. Bisphenol A is a popular color developer in thermal paper and in carbonless copy paper.
Flexible plastics, toys, toiletries and other personal care or beauty products – these widely contain phthalates, another endocrine disrupter and estrogen-mimic. Like other endocrine disrupters, phthalates can elevate estradiol production and cause chromosomal damage. Phthalates leach from certain plasticisers used in plastic bottles, used to contain anything from drinking water to hair shampoo and other personal care products.
Cosmetics like face creams, lipsticks etc – many contain estrogen mimics. Dr Ana Soto of Tuft’s experimented with 10 such estrogen mimics, all normal product ingredients designated as safe levels by the US Government. In studies with rats she got a full estrogen response, the sort of effect you might see from the most potent form of estrogen, estradiol. That was just 10 ingredients! How many more estrogen mimics are you exposed to each week in your own home? Probably hundreds.
Finally (for this post any way) sodium lauryl sulphate in soaps, bubble bath, shampoos, dishwashing detergent and so on can increase the permeability of the skin by up to 40 per cent. This just allows more hormone mimics to pass into the blood stream. If you’re still using personal care and household products with sodium lauryl sulphate, for goodness sake WAKE UP! There are alternative, safe toiletry, skin care and household products available today. At least one brand, Neways International, avoids using 3,000 questionable ingredients, including the estrogen-mimics mentioned here.
If you haven’t already done so, switch to using personal care and household care products which are free from questionable ingredients, like xenoestrogens. It could save your life.