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Nov 19

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PFAS, phenols, and parabens: Links to hormone-mediated cancers

In a recent webinar, Dr. Max Aung presented the results of a study that examined the relationship between certain chemicals and previous diagnoses of hormone-mediated cancers.

Chemicals linked to hormone-mediated cancers

A number of cancers are hormone-mediated. These include prostate, breast, ovarian, endometrial, testicular, and thyroid cancer, as well as melanoma. Hormone-mediated cancers are projected to become the cancers with the highest incidences of new cases.

Increasing evidence points to environmental pollution as a risk factor for these cancers. Many industrial chemicals found in consumer products and in the environment are endocrine disruptors and could influence risk of hormone-mediated cancers.

The study presented by Aung used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the period 2005-2018. The study examined levels of phenols, parabens, and PFAS chemicals in blood and urine of NHANES participants. The study also looked at whether those participants had previously reported being diagnosed with a hormone-mediated cancer. By analyzing the data, the study found a relationship between exposure to the chemicals and increased likelihood of a past cancer diagnosis:

  • In women, a positive association was found between several biomarkers of PFAS exposure and melanoma.
  • Positive associations were found between certain PFAS and ovarian and uterine cancers.
  • Positive associations were found between certain phenols and ovarian cancer and melanoma.

Aung also highlighted a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) showing that PFAS contamination in water is an environmental justice issue. The report shows that PFAS contamination in drinking water in California disproportionately impacts communities already overburdened with cumulative exposure to other types of pollution.

The need for greater surveillance

This study points to the need for greater surveillance of certain chemical exposures and regulatory action to reduce or eliminate these exposures.

A limitation of the study was that it was only able to examine exposures that occurred after the cancer diagnosis. However, the results can be used to determine which chemicals to prioritize in future studies.

Visit the webinar page to watch the full recording, download the Webinar Highlights fact sheet, and find out more about this important research. 

This organizational blog was produced by CHE's Science Writer, Matt Lilley.

Tags: cancerparabensPFAS