The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Does Bisphenol A Affect Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer cells exposed to the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A grow faster and resist normal chemotherapy.

Bisphenol A, BPA, is a compound that keeps hard plastics hard. We also find it in certain cash register receipts and the linings of most food cans. As a result, most of us are exposed to BPA every day. This chemical is mimics estrogen and is known as an endocrine disruptor.

How Does Bisphenol A Affect Breast Cancer?

Now scientists at Duke University have found that this endocrine-disrupting compound can make inflammatory breast cancer cells resist treatment. When these cancer cells are treated with bisphenol A in the laboratory, they generate more of the signaling molecules called epidermal growth factor receptors. A low dose of BPA doubled the amount of EGFR on cell surfaces.

Breast Cancer Cells Growing Faster:

As a result of exposure to BPA, these aggressive breast cancer cells grew faster and were less likely to die when treated with common anti-cancer drugs. A response of this nature could complicate treatment of this devastating disease.

Sauer et al, Carcinogenesis, January 25, 2017

We have been tracking BPA for some time. You can read what we have written previously here, here and here. In 2010, we alerted readers that BPA is found in cash register receipts and dental sealants as well as in plastic containers and metal cans:

BPA as an Endocrine Disruptor:

BPA or bisphenol A continues to roil the scientific community. Manufacturers use this chemical to line food and beverage cans and to make hard clear plastics. Some carbonless cash register receipts contain high levels of BPA.

Studies suggest that bisphenol A can act like estrogen, but researchers are not clear about the clinical significance. Since so many Americans are exposed to BPA, we need to answer the question of whether it is a significant endocrine disruptor. The contradictory conclusions from a number of studies prevents a clear answer that important question.

What About Dental Sealants?

Even without clarity, some doctors are making recommendations. An article in the journal Pediatrics suggests that women should avoid having dental sealants applied during pregnancy. These sealants contain BPA and related chemicals. Presumably sealing women’s teeth during pregnancy would boost in utero BPA exposure for their babies.

Scientists worry that such early exposure might increase the infants’ future risk. Animal research points to reproductive system cancers as well as heart disease and abnormal brain development as possible complications.

Once children have permanent teeth, pediatricians say, dental sealants can help protect them. If dentists wipe and rinse the sealants after they are applied, BPA levels in the mouth are dramatically lowered.

Fleisch et al, Pediatrics, Sept. 2010

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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