In part one of this three part article I discussed how xenoestrogens are molecules that act like hormones in the body and can promote the growth of cancer cells. As part of an integrative cancer prevention or treatment plan it is essential to identify and eliminate your exposure to these compounds in the same way as you must eliminate foods such as refined sugar.
The following are 2 simple but powerful ways to reduce your xenoestrogen exposure.
1) Avoid plastic cups and food containers – some plastics contain a compound called Bisphenol A (BPA). It is leached when liquids or foods are heated, cooled or stored in plastic. BPA has been linked to promoting obesity in children, causing infertility, disrupting genes and stimulating the growth of cancer cells.1 In relation to cancer, even the amount of BPA from one plastic cup is potent enough to make chemotherapy less effective due to its estrogenic action in the body.2 Remember, cancers (especially hormone sensitive cancers such as breast cancer) growth in the presence of hormones, including xenoestrogens. The frightening part about BPA is that it can have a negative impact on fetuses causing hormones disruption in future generations.3
a. What to avoid: Plastic food containers (especially hard plastics), plastics water bottles, the inside lining of cans, thermal paper (receipts) and other plastics. Especially do not heat or microwave any plastics since this causes more BPA to be released.
b. Healthy alternatives: glass or ceramic food containers, glass or stainless steel water bottles, cans that are “BPA-free,”
c. Beware: Plastic water bottles that claim to be “BPA-free.” They are still made out of plastic so they can leach other potentially harmful compounds.
2) Avoid Commercial cosmetics, creams and perfumes – topical products are notorious for containing compounds that are not only difficult to pronounce but can disrupt your hormones. Parabens and phthalates are 2 of the most detrimental compounds. They are added to many topical creams and cosmetics as preservatives and thickeners. They both have been associated with hormonal changes lower sperm count, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, thyroid irregularities and cancer growth.4,5 Parabens are fairly easy to identify since the name usually contains the word “paraben” in it (i.e. methylparaben, ethylparaben). Phthalates are more difficult to pick out and they often are one of the molecules in the “fragrance.” Since fragrance is a secret formula, companies do not need to disclose the exact ingredients, which means that harmful compounds are most likely still in the product.
a. What to avoid: cosmetics, lips balms, shampoo, creams, perfumes, cleaning products and detergents. To check your specific products use the these free online resources: www.ewg.org/skindeep/, www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners
b. Healthy alternatives: look for products that do not contain the aforementioned chemicals. Use cosmetics that are paraben, sulfate, phthalates, and fragrance free. Avoid using synthetic air fresheners, perfumes and cleaners. Use vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice as household cleaners. Use essential oils and plant based cosmetics.
c. Beware: anti-bacterial produces such as hand soap and toothpaste. They contain the compound called Triclosan, which causes allergies, disrupts hormones, and promotes cancer growth. 6 The FDA has already put out a warning, Europe has banned it but you can still buy it in Canada.
Cancer causing compounds and xenoestrogens surround us on a daily basis so we must look at every source of possible exposure in our homes and workplace. This process can be overwhelming, especially if you have never looked into some of the chemicals that may be hidden in products you have been using for many year. My advice is to start to change your environment slowly and make small, manageable changes. The good news is that there are great resources available online and with the help of you naturopathic doctor you can make the process of eliminating harmful substances easier. In part 3 of this article I will discuss Natural ways to protect yourself from harmful compounds and stimulate their detoxification.
1) Vom Saal FS, Nagel SC, Coe BL, Angle BM, Taylor JA. The estrogenic endocrine disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and obesity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 May 6;354(1-2):74-84.
2) Lapensee EW, Tuttle TR, Fox SR, Ben-Jonathan N. Bisphenol A at low nanomolar doses confers chemoresistance in estrogen receptor-alpha-positive and -negative breast cancer cells. Environ Health Perspect. 2009 Feb;117(2):175-80.
3) Singh S, Li SS. Epigenetic effects of environmental chemicals bisphenol a and phthalates. Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(8):10143-53.
4) Crinnion WJ. Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Sep;15(3):190-6.
5) Charles AK, Darbre PD. Combinations of parabens at concentrations measured in human breast tissue can increase proliferation of MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. J Appl Toxicol. 2013 May;33(5):390-8.
6) Dann AB, Hontela A. Triclosan: environmental exposure, toxicity and mechanisms of action. J Appl Toxicol. 2011 May;31(4):285-311. doi: 10.1002/jat.1660.
Xenoestrogens are a group of environmental chemicals, which mimic estrogen in the body. This family of molecules have been linked to the development and promotion of hormonally sensitive cancers. Research is just beginning to uncover the wide-ranging effects of this class of compounds. This topic is so important; I have devoted a 3-part article to expanding and explaining this important topic. As of 2003 there were over 160 xenoestrogens that may be involved in breast cancer development (Brody and Rudel 2003). Cancer types that have been well documented in literature to be related with environmental exposure include the reproductive system, breast, lung, kidney, pancreas, and brain (Fucic et al 2012). New research is always emerging that confirms the negative impact of environmental chemicals such as dioxins, phthalates and parabens which are found in pesticides, cosmetics, cleaners and processed foods. Specifically in cancer, there is evidence the xenoestrogens play a role in in all phases of cancer development including initiation, transformation, and invasion (Fernandez and Russo 2010). For example, a number of studies have now confirmed that a chemical (a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) produced during meat frying and grilling strongly increases DNA damage in breast cells and promotes breast cancer growth (Rohrmann et al 2009). Two emerging concepts to consider is that individual differences in genes responsible for detoxification may predispose some people more than others to the harmful effects of xenoestrogens. Secondly, a very concerning aspect of xenoestrogens is that studies are now confirming that exposure not only poses a health risk immediately, but also increases susceptibility to cancer and other diseases later in life (Wadia et al 2007). There is still more research to be done to fully understand the broad health impact of xenoestrogens but the emerging evidence is frightening do to their wide spread prevalence and pervasiveness in our food products, water supply, and environment. As part of a hormonal balancing and breast cancer prevention plan, it is paramount to consider reducing the exposure to these compounds that contribute to detrimental estrogenic activity in the body. You must also support the natural detoxification pathways (i.e. phase 1 and 2 in the liver) that remove excess hormones and xenoestrogens. Most people are inefficiently removing these compounds after they are exposed which increases their damaging effects. Natural compounds found in vegetables and certain herbs like mike thistle can promote healthy detoxification and therefore indirectly balance your hormones and reduce your cancer risk. To learn more visit your naturopathic doctor at pureBalance wellness centre to safely and effectively stimulate the elimination of harmful xenoestrogens and reduce your cancer risk. Check out part 2 of this 3 part article where I highlight Top ways to reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens.
Brody and Rudel. Review Environmental pollutants and breast cancer.
Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Jun; 111(8):1007-19.
Fucic et al. Environmental exposure to xenoestrogens and oestrogen related cancers: reproductive system, breast, lung, kidney, pancreas, and brain. Environ Health. 2012 Jun 28;11 Suppl 1:S8.
Rohrmann et al. Dietary intake of meat and meat-derived heterocyclic aromatic amines and their correlation with DNA adducts in female breast tissue. Mutagenesis. 2009 Mar;24(2):127-32.
Wadia et al. Perinatal bisphenol A exposure increases estrogen sensitivity of the mammary gland in diverse mouse strain. EHP. 2007;115(4):592–598
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