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PFAS compound linked to preponderance of cancers among women: Researchers

In an indication that exposure to certain endocrine-disrupting substances may be playing a role in promoting cancers in women, researchers discovered that people who had cancers of the breast, ovary, skin, and uterus had much greater amounts of these chemicals in their systems.

While this study, published in the journal Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology recently, does not establish that exposure to chemicals such as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds) and phenols (including BPA) caused these cancer diagnoses, it does provide a strong indication that they may have played a role and should be investigated further.

Researchers from UCSF, USC, and Michigan utilised data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from over 10,000 adults. They looked at the link between phenols and PFAS exposure and past cancer diagnoses, emphasising racial or ethnic differences. The research is part of the Environmental Health Sciences Core Centres, financed by the United States National Institutes of Health.

Commenting on the strong findings, Dr Max Aung, the senior author of the study who conducted the research while at the UCSF Programme on Reproductive Health and the Environment and is now an associate professor of environmental health at USC Keck School of Medicine, said, "These findings highlight the need to consider PFAS and phenols as whole classes of environmental risk factors for cancer risk in women."

It is now a fact that PFAS, or forever chemicals, have contaminated water, food, and people through Teflon pans, waterproof clothing, stain-resistant carpets, and food packaging. They last decades in the environment and can remain in the systems of people for months to years.

"These PFAS chemicals appear to disrupt hormone function in women, which is one potential mechanism that increases the odds of hormone-related cancers in women," said Amber Dr Cathey, the lead author of the study and a research faculty scientist at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health.

The study discovered racial differences in the relationship between PFAS and ovarian and uterine malignancies, as well as between MPAH and BPF and breast cancer, among non-white women.

"As communities around the country grapple with PFAS contamination, this adds further evidence that supports policymakers developing action to reduce PFAS exposure," said Dr Tracey J. Woodruff, professor and director of the Programme on Reproductive Health and the Environment and director of the UCSF EaRTH Centre, which supported the study.

"Since PFAS make up thousands of chemicals, one way to reduce exposures is for the EPA to regulate PFAS as a class of chemicals rather than one at a time." She added.

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