Chemicals That May Cause Cancer

A 2014 study focused on narrowing the lengthy list of chemicals linked to breast cancer into 17 categories that may affect a woman's risk of developing the disease.

The study
The article, published in the September 2014 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, used research found on PubMed to identify measurement methods for biomarker exposure from the 102 chemicals that have been known to cause mammary tumors in rodents. That information was then compared with biomarkers in chemicals linked to human breast cancer. Information from similar studies was also taken into account. Researchers then listed the chemicals in categories.

The chemicals
According to the findings, 75 of the carcinogens that affect rodents can be broken down into 17 groups. The groupings are based on structural similarity, exposure potential and carcinogenicity. The categories and their causes are as follows:

  • 1,3- Butadlene (cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust, gasoline fumes and industrial emissions)
  • Acrylamide (foods rich in starch that have been cooked at high temperatures, tobacco smoke)
  • Aromatic Amines (pesticides, dyes and more)
  • Benzene (gasoline, tobacco smoke)
  • Halogenated organic solvents (dry cleaning, food processing, paint, spot removers, hair-spray propellant)
  • EtO and 1,2-propylene oxide and 1,2-propylene oxide (medial equipment, musical instruments, food, spices)
  • Flame retardants and metabolites (polyester, polyurethane foam, plastics)
  • Heterocyclic amines (meat cooked at high temperatures, tobacco smoke)
  • Endogenous and pharmaceutical hormones and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals (estrogen, progesterone and other synthetic hormones)
  • MX (drinking water)
  • Nitro-PAHs (diesel exhaust)
  • Ochratoxin A (nuts, grain, pork products)
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons(tobacco smoke, air pollution, charred foods)
  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (non-stick and stain-resistant coating, cosmetics, paints adhesives, lubricants, paints)
  • Nonhormonal pharmaceuticals (four chemotherapeutic agents, two veterinary drugs that may be found in food and several other drugs that are not widely used. 
  • Styrene (indoor air, cigarette smoke, food that has been in contact with styrene)
  • Other chemicals (27 chemicals that do not fall into the main categories but still carry possibilities for exposure)

Literature already exists that can assist in biomarker identification and epidemiology, and could be used to better understand breast cancer prevention and treatment. While humans and rodents have consistent reactions to cancer-causing agents, there are some chemicals that need to be studied further. 

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