Bisphenol A (BPA) & the Breast Cancer Link

Did you know that recent breast cancer studies have shown that chemicals can leach from plastics into your food if they are heated? One of these chemicals, bisphenol A (BPA), has been shown to increase risks for breast cancer.

What is Bisphenol A (BPA)?

BPA is considered a synthetic estrogen. The body’s hormonal balance can be directly affected by this “hormone disruptor.” Some breast cancers respond and grow when exposed to estrogen or chemicals that behave like estrogen. BPA can be found in both beverage plastic containers like water and baby bottles and metal cans such as canned food and soda cans.

In 2008, the U.S. and Canadian governments placed BPA on their lists of toxic substances. Beginning in 2009, major retailers and manufacturers such as Wal-Mart, Nalgene and Toys-R-Us, began phasing out the chemical in their production systems. Japan’s manufacturers voluntarily removed a large portion of BPA in their packaging, resulting in a near 50% drop of BPA in the blood levels of Japanese citizens according to one report. In 2010, the European Union (EU) banned the production of baby bottles with BPA. BPA bans have been proposed or legislated in Denmark, France, Sweden, Belgium, and Turkey. Beginning in 2011, 26 U.S. states have proposed various levels of bans on BPA. California passed a ban on BPA in baby bottles that will take effect in 2013.

Effects of BPA

Women with higher levels of BPA in their urine while pregnant can have daughters who are more likely to suffer from depression or hyperactivity. posted about the results of a study by Coral Lamartiniere, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and senior scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, and postdoctoral fellow Sarah Jenkins, Ph.D., which were published online Oct. 12, 2011, by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives:

Animal studies have linked BPA to a variety of health problems such as infertility, prostate cancer and breast cancer, but not without disagreement as to how and whether such findings can be extrapolated to humans. Most BPA research has been centered on early-life exposure in animals, linking low doses of BPA administered early in life — prenatal, pre-pubertal or a combination of the two — to an increased risk of mammary cancer later in life.

The American Medical Association posted about a Susan B. Komen panel’s findings, which states:

The committee said BPA, which is widely used in plastic containers and food packaging, is a biologically plausible hazard. That means scientists can see a clear mechanism in animals by which the agent might cause breast cancer. But studies to assess the chemical’s risk in humans are lacking or inadequate, the report said.

BPA’s status as a “plausible hazard” and a “clear mechanism in animals which the agent might cause breast cancer” puts this substance on our “Better Safe Than Sorry” list. Since BPA offers no health benefits, If you can avoid BPA without too much effort, it certainly makes sense to do so.

Ways To Limit Your BPA Exposure

To help you and your family avoid exposure to BPA, we suggest:

  • Using baby bottles that are labeled “BPA Free”
  • Using personal water bottles made with metal or glass.
  • Check the bottom of the container for the number 7 symbol for recycling (polycarbonate or “PC”). If you do not see “PLA” or a leaf, there may be a risk of exposure to BPA.
  • Don’t cook or microwave in plastic (think about those “steam in a bag” products) if you do not know for sure that there is no risk of exposure.
  • Avoid using plastic kitchen utensils with hot liquids or foods.
  • Consider an alternative to lined metal cans, which also have BPA in the interior coating
  • Do not put hot leftovers into plastic storage containers unless well cooled. Many plastic storage containers today will specifically indicate “BPA Free” right on their label.

Have you taken measures to reduce BPA in your home? What are the changes you’ve made? How difficult was it?