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Carcinogens with female hormone properties

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What are xenoestrogens 
These are environmental man made chemicals which contaminate our diets every day, for the whole of our lives. These contaminants have oestrogenic properties
either because they have chemical structure similar to oestrogen or affect the sex hormone activity in an indirect pathway. There are concerns that they can increase the risks of hormone sensitive benign diseases such as fibroid and endometriosis, reduce fertility in men and cancers such as testicular cancer, breast or uterus.  There is also a concern that they may increase the risk of relapse following treatment for breast cancer especially if it was ER positive (sensitive to oestrogen).

Environmental sources of xenoestrogens 
It is difficult to quantify our exposure to oestrogenic pollutants - they are present in the air, what we drink, eat and put on our skin. Some products may have small amounts and others have a great deal, varying by class of product and brand. We may use some or them rarely but use others every day. Here is a list of the more commonly known sources:

  • Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers
  • Car pollution,
  • Some deodorants, antipersperants (Aluminium)
  • Shampoos and skin creams - (parabens)
  • Most sun tan creams
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls PCB’s,
  • Fuels and car fumes
  • Polycarbonate plastic bottles including some babies bottles,
  • Plastic food containers,
  • Plastic film

The evidence
Direct evidence that these, increasingly commonly found chemicals, directly cause cancer or infertility is difficult to prove in humans. We certainly know that studies in the laboratory, which added these chemicals to hormone sensitive cancer cells grown in a petri disc make them grow and spread like wildfire. A further study in 1993 showed that rhesus monkeys developed a thickened uterus (the first stages to develop cancer) and endometriosis after being fed food that contained dioxin, a xenoestrogen, over a four-year period. A fact worth noting is that 70 years ago, when the environment was free of estrogenic pollutants, there were only 21 reported cases of endometriosis versus the current 5.5 million in North America alone. 

 A report published in the International Journal of Andrology has linked pollutant oestrogenic chemicals in mothers’ breast milk with an increased rate of testicular cancer and genital abnormalities. in their male children. More specifically, researchers found that Danish men were up to four times more likely to have testicular cancer as men in neighbouring Finland. Investigators measured levels of 121 chemicals in 68 samples of breast milk from women in Denmark and Finland. They found a dramatic difference between the two countries, as Danish breast milk had significantly higher levels of some chemicals, including dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides, than Finnish breast milk.  

An initial concern in humans was raised following a study in 2004 from Reading University, UK, which demonstrated higher quantities of parabens in the outer part of the breast and within breast cancer cells themselves. Although a direct link with cancer is not proven it did encourage some manufacturers to remove parabens from their products, but in many items such as shower gels and shampoo they can still be seen on the label. 

Aluminium salts are responsible for the anti-sweating affect of antiperspirants. A study in 2007 from Keel University created a lot of media activity when it showed higher quantities of aluminium in the upper outer area of the breast in those who used antiperspirants regularly. Aluminium has also been shown to have harmful oestrogenic properties when tested in the laboratory and consequently comes under the classification of metaloestrogens. Users of Aluminium based antiperspirants are understandably concerned that the higher levels in the breast may increase the risk of cancer, although this has not been proven in a study, which would be very difficult to design. Nevertheless, breast cancer specialists also have concerns over oestrogenic chemicals within cosmetics. In the prestigious San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium a presentation reported the finding that widely available moisturizers contain parabens and other chemicals which mimic oestriol or estrone, two powerful oestrogen-like compounds that could increase breast cancer risk if absorbed through the skin. They concluded that women with breast cancer should forgo using topical moisturizers, shampoos and shower gels that contain parabens or other oestrogenic preservative, as there is a chance that they may interfere with their treatment and increase the long term risk of relapse.

General tips to avoid xenoestrogens in our diet 
It is difficult to avoid these chemicals in a modern environment and as they are ingested or absorbed through the skin  in small quantities over long periods of time. As you can see from the list above, xenoestrogens are around us all day long - all we can do is reduce the exposure - it will be impossible in modern society to eliminate them altogether. A chapter entitled "avoid carcinogens can be downloaded free from the book Lifestyle after cancer - the facts which will provide detailed information and advice but here is a summary of  some simple tips which will  help reduce your exposure:

  • Buy a good salad spinner – soak lettuce leaves and herbs in water, thoroughly then spin them dry before eating.
  • Wash fruit before put them onto the fruit bowel.
  • Wash vegetables first and change the water before cooking.
  • Avoid reusing plastic bottles
  • Use glass bottles where possible
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers
  • Avoid wrapping food in plastic film for long periods of time
  • Store plastic mineral water bottles in a cool dark place.
  • Use less deodorants / antiperspirants - alternate brands to avoid exposure to the same chemical and try to have days without them
  • Avoid skin creams which have oestrogenic preservatives such as parabens.
  • Use lip/nail creams such as natureMedical which have no hydrocarbons or preservatives
  • Buy organic if possible.


Other good reasons to consider buying organic foods:


Helpful resources and links

Cancernet-UK: What is cancerAbout specific cancers; Breast | Prostate | Bowel.  About cancer treatments; Chemotherapy | Radiotherapy | Hormones | Biological agents | Complementary.  Lifestyle advice; Exercise | Diet | Smoking | Sunbathing | Alcohol.  Cope with symptomsTraveling | Insurance  | Tests for cancer | Clinical trials. ...site map
Micro-nutrient testing Empower yourself to make dietary choices specific to your personal make up. This Cancer Risk Nutritional Profile, analyses your blood profile and recommends specific dietary and supplement advice to ensure you have the best possible nutritional status to fight cancer an aid recovery from treatments....read more
Download a free chapter describing how to avoid cancer forming chemicals (Carcinogens) in our diet and environments  from the new edition of the best selling evidence based book    "Lifestyle after Cancer - the facts"
Lifestyle and cancer - the facts. This 2011, edition with a foreword from Paula Radcliffe has been extensively re-written with evidence from the latest research from around the world which demonstrates how diet, exercise and lifestyle changes can; help avoid cancer (read chapter 9 free), cope with treatments side effects; slow the rate of progression of cancer and help prevent  relapse.  This comprehensive essential lifestyle guidebook can be ordered online (£8.95), or downloaded via kindle
Keep-healthy.com Practical evidence based advice on healthy living including ways to naturally reduce cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, keep healthy eyesight, hearing, maintain a healthy weight and level of fitness. Includes advice on supplements and other useful products...link