Health. Endocrine disruptors and cancer: what links? - Archyde
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Health. Endocrine disruptors and cancer: what links?

Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are present almost everywhere in our daily lives. They work by altering the hormonal functions of the body. These endocrine disruptors could be the cause of several million deaths each year according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Estimating their effects on human health is made very difficult because of many questions about their mechanisms of action but also about the multiplicity of substances concerned and routes of exposure.

Proven links

However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has demonstrated the carcinogenic nature of certain substances.

Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug containing synthetic non-steroidal estrogens, increases the relative risk (RR) of breast cancer in women who took it during pregnancy compared to those who never took it.

This medication was used in France between 1948 and 1977 under the names Distilbène®, Furostilboestrol® and Stilboestrol-Borne®. It helped prevent miscarriages and premature deliveries. For exposed women, the risk of vaginal cancer increases. In men, effects on the prostate and testis are also suspected.

The hormonal treatments for menopause (THMs) increase the risk of breast cancer. This risk is amplified if taking THMs for more than 5 years. These treatments also increase the risk of endometrial cancer.

The combined oral contraceptives are also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. When the doses are prolonged beyond 8 years, researchers have identified a greater number of cancers of the cervix. These contraceptives can also promote the development of liver cancer.

However, these risks must be weighed against the protective effects of contraceptives on the probabilities of developing endometrial or ovarian cancer.

Substances suspected of being carcinogenic

Other endocrine disruptors are suspected of being carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. These are:

polychlorobiphényles (PCB) in the development of breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s malignant lymphoma. These substances, used in industry for their insulating properties (electrical transformers) and their chemical stability (inks, paints), have been banned since 1987. But they are still found in nature, especially in the Rhône.

polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Of these, three are classified as probable carcinogens and 11 others are classified as possible carcinogens to the lung, bladder and skin.

phtalates, present in plastics, they allow food to be preserved. They have a controversial role in the occurrence of cancers, especially in liver or testicular tumors.

-from some organochlorine pesticides (chlordecone and DDT) found in solvents, pesticides, insecticides and fungicides.

Endocrine disruptors could also have an indirect effect on the incidence of cancer. And this, in particular through an increase in the frequency of certain risk factors for cancer in the population such as overweight, obesity, cryptorchidism or precocious puberty.

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