Chemicals linked to male breast cancer

Common workplace chemicals have been linked to an increased risk of male breast cancer. The authors of the European study conclude their findings “support growing evidence” linking environmental pollutants to the disease.

The study, whose findings are published this week in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, investigated occupational risk factors for male breast cancer, using a case control study conducted in eight European countries. The researchers found male breast cancer incidence was particularly increased in motor vehicle mechanics, who were twice as likely to develop the disease. There was a clear “dose–effect” relationship, with the risk of developing the cancer increasing with duration of employment.

The male breast cancer risk was also increased in paper makers and painters, forestry and logging workers, health and social workers, and furniture manufacture workers. The authors note: “These findings suggest that some environmental chemicals are possible mammary carcinogens. Petrol, organic petroleum solvents or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are suspect because of the consistent elevated risk of male breast cancer observed in motor vehicle mechanics.” They add: “Endocrine disruptors such as alkylphenolic compounds may play a role in breast cancer.”

The paper concludes: “The elevated risk of male breast cancer among motor vehicle mechanics points to a role of PAH and petrol or petroleum solvents in breast carcinogenesis, which needs to be investigated further in studies of male or female breast cancer. For the first time in male breast cancer, we have shown that endocrine disrupting chemicals could affect breast cancer risk. These results support growing evidence that breast cancer may be linked to exposure to environmental pollutants, and should encourage further studies on this issue.”

Sara Villeneuve, Diane Cyr, Elsebeth Lynge and others. Occupation and occupational exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in male breast cancer: a case–control study in Europe, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, volume 67, pages 837-844, 2010 [abstract].

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