According to new research supported by the US government, women exposed to numerous commonly used chemicals appear to have an elevated risk of developing ovarian and other specific types of cancer, including a doubling of the risk for melanoma.
Using data gathered by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a group of academic researchers discovered proof that women diagnosed with some “hormonally driven” cancers had exposures to specific per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are used in countless household and industrial products, including stain- and heat-resistant items.
They discovered comparable associations between high exposures to phenols, which are frequently found in food packaging, colours, and personal care products, and cancer diagnoses in women.
PFAS have earned the moniker “forever chemicals” because of how long they persist in the environment.
There were no similar connections between the pollutants and cancer diagnoses in men, according to the study, which was published late on Sunday in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.
The researchers found that PFAS compounds in particular may interfere with women’s hormone activities, which is a possible mechanism for raising their risk of developing hormone-related cancers. Given the prevalence and difficulty of treating hormonally active malignancies, further investigation into possible environmental factors is crucial, according to the experts.
“People should care about this,” said Max Aung, assistant professor of environmental health at the USC Kreck School of Medicine and a senior author of the study. “We know that there is widespread human exposure to these forever chemicals and we have documented data on that.”
These substances can disrupt your biological processes and raise your risk of a variety of negative health effects. Knowing that will help us better prevent exposures and reduce dangers, according to Aung.
PFAS exposure is almost unavoidable due to the chemicals‘ high environmental prevalence. PFAS residues, which are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” because they do not decompose naturally, can linger in water, soil, air, and food. According to the CDC, PFAS are present in the blood of around 97% of Americans. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), a division of the US Department of Interior, PFAS are present in 45% of the country’s drinking water.
Notably, the research team discovered disparities in the behaviour of women from other ethnic groups: correlations between PFAS and ovarian and uterine malignancies were mostly observed in white women, but associations between forever chemicals known as phenols and breast cancer were predominately observed in non-white women.
According to the researchers, it is unclear why these disparities exist, but they speculate that among other things, dietary practises and closeness to tainted water sources may be to blame.
The new study is based on data analysis from a CDC biomonitoring programme that involved more than 10,000 persons from 2005 to 2018. Prior cancer diagnoses as well as PFAS and phenol concentrations in study participants’ blood and urine were examined by researchers.
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Women who had higher exposure to the long-chained PFAS compound PFDE had a twofold increased risk of having previously been diagnosed with melanoma, while women who had higher exposure to the long-chained PFAS compounds PFNA and PFUA had odds that were almost twofold higher. Additionally, PFNA and uterine cancer were discovered to be related, according to researchers.
The research, according to the researchers, is a strong indication that the forever chemicals play a role and should be further investigated, even though it does not establish that exposure to PFAS and phenols caused these cancer diagnoses.
In order to “better understand” how PFAS forever chemicals are harming human health, the study is a component of continuing investigation supported by the National Institutes of Environmental Health. There are thousands of distinct kinds of PFAS, and research on how they affect health is still in its early stages. Nevertheless, some of these PFAS have already been connected in previous studies to a number of diseases, including cancer, impaired fertility, and renal illness.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco’s Programme on Reproductive Health and the Environment, the University of Southern California, and the University of Michigan, in addition to Aung, undertook the study.