Wake-up call: pesticides, chemicals linked to breast cancer
April 2, 2008
The rising toll of breast cancer can only be cut by reducing exposure to hormone-disrupting man-made chemicals, a new report warns.
The incidence of the disease has dramatically risen across Europe in the last 20 years – by more than 50% in some countries and even doubling in others, according to recent World Health Organisation figures. About one in 10 women will develop the disease.
The head of toxicology at the University of London’s School of Pharmacy, Professor Andreas Kortenkamp, says one answer is to cut the use of a range of chemicals which can interfere with the human hormone system.
After years of research analysis, aided by nearly £15 million of EU funding, he concludes: “Good laboratory and epidemiological evidence exists suggesting that man-made chemicals which mimic oestrogen contribute to breast cancer. We will not be able to reduce the risk of breast cancer without addressing preventable causes, particularly exposure to chemicals.”
Prof Kortenkamp is one of about 200 international scientists who have signed the Prague Declaration, which set out concerns in 2005 about the health risks posed by everyday chemicals, including some pesticides, flame retardants, cosmetic ingredients, pharmaceuticals and natural products such as plant-derived oestrogen’s.
Now his latest assessment – “Breast cancer and exposure to hormonally active chemicals: an appraisal of the scientific evidence” – is being studied by MEPs in Brussels to see how EU legislation can help improve breast cancer prevention.
UK charity CHEM Trust, which jointly commissioned the review, said the report’s publication came at a time when breast cancer was reaching “epidemic” proportions.
CHEM Trust director Elizabeth Salter Green said: “There is a misconception that breast cancer is an inherited disease and therefore inevitable. This is a quite simply a myth: most cases of breast cancer are acquired over a woman’s lifetime, and so most are preventable.”
But she said the evidence of scores of scientific experts about the link between the disease and exposure to chemicals had not yet been taken up in Europe and turned into effective action. She urged MEPs to “wake up to what needs to be done”.
Genon Jensen, executive director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), also urged MEPs to tighten existing EU chemical safety regulations, including tougher controls on pesticides and cosmetics ingredients.