So What About Plastics and Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer risks may be linked to BPA according to primate study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) You've heard stories about a compound found in plastics called BPA. It's been linked to all sorts of health issues. So what about BPA and breast cancer?

A recent study involving monkeys found that small amounts of BPA given to pregnant moms altered the formation of mammary glands in the baby monkeys. 

"Choose glass containers whenever possible."

BPA is an organic compound that's a very close to unpronounceable chemical known as diethylstilbestrol, which is an estrogen that's been linked to breast cancer.

"Previous studies in mice have demonstrated that low doses of BPA alter the developing mammary gland and that these subtle changes increase the risk of cancer in the adult," said Patricia Hunt, a geneticist in Washington State University's School of Molecular Biosciences.

She added that there's been doubt about whether or not findings in rodents really meant anything for humans.

Hunt said that "finding the same thing in a primate model really hits uncomfortably close to home."

Hunt worked with a team of researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine and the University of California at Davis.

The scientists compared the difference in newborn mammary glands of female rhesus macaques born to moms who had been exposed to BPA and those who had not. 

Pregnant monkeys received small amounts of BPA in their food during what would be comparable to a woman's third trimester. 

Researchers say the resulting levels of BPA  as found in blood samples were similar to those of many Americans.

Babies born to the BPA-exposed mothers had more dense and developed mammary glands compared to those that had not been exposed BPA.

Previous studies showed that exposing mice in the womb to tiny amounts of BPA resulted in pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions in adulthood.

"This study buttresses previous findings showing that fetal exposure to low xenoestrogen levels causes developmental alterations that in turn increase the risk of mammary cancer later in life," said Tufts University School of Medicine researchers Ana Soto.

dailyRx Contributing Expert, Adam Brufsky, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said of the study, "This may be interesting but needs further follow-up."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 15, 2012
Last Updated:
July 10, 2012