Is that All? Breast Cancer Risk Factors Connected to 102 Chemicals Besides BPA [Harvard Study]


There are many breast cancer risk factors, and new research has found 102 more of them in common chemicals. But BPA is not on this list.

Researchers from the Silent Spring Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health have compiled the comprehensive list of chemicals that can be considered breast cancer risk factors—and the list surprisingly does not include BPA (bisphenol A)—the much fretted over endocrine disruptor found in plastic bottles and aluminum can linings.

“Instead, the study draws attention to much more potent estrogenic chemicals than BPA, such as Estradiol-17b, a component of oral contraceptives and hormone therapies, which has entered domestic wastewater—and possibly drinking water—via urination,” reports Forbes Magazine.

The study actually suggests that BPA is not a breast cancer risk factor, even though it’s been pointed to by numerous health organizations. Instead, the study focuses on other chemicals, including acrylamide—a chemical that is created in high heat cooking of certain starches (like potato chips). Also on the list in benzene, which can be produced in the presence of sodium benzoate when in combination with vitamin C. Sodium benzoate is a preservative in many food and skin care items. The authors write in the report, “these 102 comprise a diverse set of chemicals and exposures, including components of automobile exhaust, gasoline, and air pollution (1,3-butadiene, benzene, PAHs, nitro-PAHs), chemicals in food and drinking water (acrylamide, ochratoxin A, heterocyclic amines, styrene, 3-chloro-4-(dichloromethyl)-5-hydroxy-2(5H)-furanone [MX]), chemicals in consumer products and building materials (flame retardants, aromatic amines, perfluorinated compounds), pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors, and some chemicals with important occupational exposures (halogenated solvents, ethylene oxide [EtO]).”

Even the “best-established risk factors for breast cancer are associated with fairly modest increases in risk” the study authors note. And reports Forbes, “weak associations based on long-term chemical exposures are going to be very hard to detect, and risk producing many false positives.”

The study once again proves that prevention is key: avoiding chemicals in food, water and personal care products, as well as having a regular physical activity practice.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.