Researchers raise concerns about BPA and breast cancer

In recent years several studies have shown how damaging could be to the human body the continuous contamination with Bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical substance can be spotted in many products people consume every day, and - according to the most recent studies undertook by many American health organizations and advocacy groups - the exposure to it seems to cause serious diseases, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, immune system changes, decreasing fertility and genital changes in babies, as well as behavioral changes in children.

The Bisphenol A, which has been in commercial use since 1957, is used to make certain plastics and epoxy resins. The BPA-based plastic is clear and tough, and is used to make a variety of common consumer goods (such as baby and water bottles, sports equipment, and CDs and DVDs) and for industrial purposes, like lining water pipes. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as coatings on the inside of many foods and beverage cans and it is also used in making thermal paper such as that used in sales receipts. During lifetime the BPA sediments in the human body, damaging it in the long term, this process begins in childhood and during pregnancy also. According to the American Breast Cancer Fund more that 90% of the US population have significant BPA traces in their bodies.

Consumer concern about BPA has led manufacturers to remove it from many products, such as baby bottles and infant formula packaging. However, some sources still oppose the warnings opinions, labeling them as confusion and alarm intents.

Recent studies demonstrate that children are constantly at risk also when still in the womb:  prenatal BPA exposure can increase risk of breast and prostate cancer, decreasing fertility, early puberty, neurological problems and immune system changes. Exposure to Bisphenol A could indirectly increase the risk of breast and prostate cancer later in life because it makes fetuses more sensitive to estrogen (which is a hormone directly linked to breast cancer).

The report jointly edited by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine says that in utero the exposure to chemicals such as BPA may drive to dramatic consequences: miscarriage and stillbirth, impaired fetal growth and low birth weight, preterm birth, childhood cancers, birth defects, intellectual impairment and thyroid problems.

In America consumers’ and public pressure lead manufacturers to voluntarily remove BPA from certain products (baby bottles, sippy cups and other infant products). Some food companies also decide to gradually eliminate the BPA in the production of their plastic packaging, capitalizing on new technologies and chemical advances.

Nevertheless, there are still some researchers that say there's not yet enough research to know if BPA really increases cancer incidence. There are also lobbies, such as The American Chemistry Council, that highlight BPA benefits: according to them Besphenol A extends a product's shelf life and protects food from contamination. This position seems enforced with the Food and Drug Administration's official statement, which says that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods.

In any case, the adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" remains highly valid. In the face of uncertainty many doctors recommend to their patients more healthy behaviors: to avoid plastics made with BPA and to not heat plastic in the microwave, which can cause chemicals to leach into food. People should clearly attempt protecting themselves form this potentially harmful substance, but even though policies will be implemented, it will take a long time – decades - to produce effective results.