BPA Exposure During Pregnancy Increases Cancer Risk

Assorted Plastic BottlesExposure to BPA during pregnancy increases the risk of prostate cancer in male offspring, says a new study by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a carbon-based synthetic compound used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. The substance has been in use since 1957. Plastic made with BPA is clear and tough. BPA is found in common consumer goods such as baby and water bottles, sports equipment, and CDs and DVDs. Bisphenol A is also used as a coating inside many food and beverage cans, inside water pipes, and on thermal print receipts.

Although many people try to limit their exposure to BPA, doing so is almost impossible, says Gail Prins, professor of physiology and director of the andrology laboratory at the UIC College of Medicine, becase the plasticizer is present in too many everyday products.

Prof. Prins explains:

“Previous studies have shown that people who avoided all contact with plastics or other BPA-containing objects for up to a month or more still had BPA in their urine, which means they must have come into contact with BPA in the last 24 to 48 hours, since it clears the body rather quickly. It’s very hard to avoid.”

Research continues to investigate the potential health problems associated with BPA. The present study as published in the journal Endocrinology investigated a link between BPA exposure during pregnancy and later prostate cancer.

The most significant concern with BPA is that the chemical, which mimics the hormone estrogen, has been linked to several types of cancer including prostate cancer in rodent models.

As Prof. Prins explains:

“Our research provides the first direct evidence that exposure to BPA during development, at the levels we see in our day-to-day lives, increases the risk for prostate cancer in human prostate tissue. The findings of adverse effects of BPA in human tissue are highly relevant and should encourage agencies like the Food & Drug Administration to re-evaluate their policies in the near future.”

In the present study, the researchers took human stem cells from deceased young men and implanted the cells into mice. The cells were used to create human prostate tissue.

The researchers divided the mice into two groups. One group was exposed to BPA while the other was not. The test mice were given BPA in amounts “equivalent to levels ingested by the average person” for two weeks after stem cell implantation. The control mice were not given BPA.

After the prostate tissue was allowed to mature for one month, the mice were also given the hormone estrogen in a process designed to mimic the estrogen levels that naturally rise as men age. This natural increase in estrogen has also been linked to prostate cancer risk.

Upon examining the prostate tissue, the researchers discovered pre-cancerous lesions or full prostate cancer in tissue samples from a third of the mice that had been exposed to BPA. Only just over a tenth of the control group exhibited the same pre-cancer and cancer.

In other words, exposure to BPA significantly increases the risk of prostate cancer.

Prof. Prins comments on the findings, “We believe that BPA actually reprograms the stem cells to be more sensitive to estrogen throughout life, leading to a life-long increased susceptibility to diseases including cancer.”

Until the FDA bans BPA, consumers can still take some precautions to lower their exposure to the chemical. Some suggestions include avoiding plastic containers with recycle codes 3 or 7, not using plastic bottles for hot liquids, and discarding scratched plastic bottles.


BPA increases risk of cancer in human prostate tissue:
Pregnancy exposure to BPA in plastic ‘raises prostate cancer risk’:

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