A Full-Service Law Firm, Putting Clients First Since 1953

Can chemical exposure at work cause breast cancer?

On Behalf of | Nov 21, 2012 | Firm News

Breast cancer in women is one of the most high profile cancers in the country. The breast cancer research stamp is only one of many awareness-raising efforts aimed at getting the word out about the need to devote resources for fighting the disease.

But ignorance about the causes of cancer still prevails, even for breast cancer. Emerging research suggests, however, that for many women, there may be work-related causes for breast cancer.

Previous research had already indicated that women who have worked in the auto industry or in farming may be at increased risk of breast cancer. A new Canadian study points more specifically to the plastics industry as a source of a problematic mix of carcinogenic and estrogenic chemicals.

These chemicals can act as “endocrine disruptors” in ways that interfere with the immune system. This, in turn, can lead not only to tumors, but other problems as well, such as birth defects.

Nor is the risk limited to women who work in the plastics industry. The Canadian study also found increased breast cancer risk among women who worked in food canning, agriculture, and even at bars, racetracks and casinos. The highest risk of all for pre-menopausal women was in canning.

The chemical exposure risks associated with agriculture are not surprising, given how widespread the use of pesticides still is. In bars and casinos, the main issue is exposure to tobacco smoke. But disruption of normal sleep schedules due to night work may also raise the risk of developing breast cancer.

Here in the U.S., the President’s Cancer Panel, an advisory committee to the National Cancer Institute, has expressed serious concern about the extent of environmentally induced cancer. In next week’s post, we will discuss what more the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could be doing to update its chemical exposure standards for the workplace.

Source: “Study finds breast cancer risk for women in auto plastics factories,” Open Channel on NBC News, Jim Morris, 11-19-12