Endocrine Disruptors and Breast Cancer Risk – Time to Consider the Environment


The term endocrine disruptors is used to describe a variety of natural and manmade substances that have thecapacity to potentially interfere with and modify the normal physiology of endocrine system either by mimicking,blocking or modulating the actions of natural endogenous hormones. The rising incidence of breast cancer overthe last 50 years and the documented higher incidence in urban as compared to rural areas suggest a relationshipto the introduction and increased use of xenoestrogens in our environment. The literature has developed overthe last decades where initial experiments on endocrine disruptors did not support an involvement in breastcancer, and then evidence mounted implicating various environmental factors including hormones, endocrinedisrupting chemicals and non-endocrine disrupting environmental carcinogens in the pathogenesis of breastcancer. Available data support the hypothesis that exposure to endocrine disruptors in utero leaves a signatureon mammary gland morphogenesis so that the resulting dysgenic gland becomes more predisposed to developtumors upon exposures to additional insults later on during life. Exceptionally, exposure to phytoestrogens couldbe beneficial to human health. Most of the available data are from well developed countries while the developingcountries are still understudied regarding these issues. Here, we raise a note of caution about potential role ofenvironmental toxins including endocrine disruptors in breast cancer development and call for serious measuresto be taken by all involved parties in the developing world.