Household cleaning products linked to breast cancer

A new study in the July 20, 2010 issue of Environmental Health suggests that exposure to household cleaning products and air fresheners may increase risk of breast cancer.

The study led by Julia Green Brody and colleagues from Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts showed that women who often used household cleaning products were 110 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than those who used them least often.

Additionally, those who used air fresheners often were 90 percent more likely to develop breast cancer compared to those who used the products least frequently.

Exposure to household cleaning and pesticide products may increase risk of breast cancer because these products contain endocrine disrupting chemicals or mammary gland carcinogens, according to the background information in the study report.

In the study, Brody and colleagues wanted to see if use of household cleaners and pesticides raises breast cancer risk.

The study involved 787 women with diagnosed breast cancer and 721 controls without the condition between 1998 and 1995. Participants self-reported how often they used the concerned products.

Pesticide use was somehow not associated with breast cancer risk, the researchers found.

This is a case-control study. The results were based on self-reports which could be biased, critics said. But the possibility that cleaning chemicals and air fresheners may increase the risk of breast cancer cannot be eliminated either.

Michael Thun, MD, vice president emeritus of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society said the study is not reliable as the data were “self reported”. Self-reports are often used in epidemiological studies.

A health observer commented that exposure to the chemicals in the concerned products would not give women any benefits to say the least. Self-reports are commonly used by many epidemiologists for their studies, but that does not means that using cleaning products is harmless.

Dr. Brody defended her study, webmd reported, saying that on-going research by her team has now focused on air and dust in women’s homes and found that chemicals detected are harmful.

Brody, a veteran researcher in Environmental Health, reported a study in June 15 2007 issue of Cancer saying that polychlorinated biphenyls (fire retardants), policyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and organic solvents were linked to breast cancer.

Mammary carcinogens and hormone disruptors may also have implications in breast cancer, according to the authors of the study, which reviewed 450 epidemiological studies on 216 chemicals.

The Environmental Working Group released a study in 2004 saying that cleaning supplies release 32 tons of contaminants into the air each day in California alone.

The study showed that 457 air contaminants were found in 21 cleaning products tested.

According to EWG, 24 chemicals found in the cleaners have been well associated with asthma, cancer and other serious health concerns.

Some cancer-causing chemicals detected in cleaning products include acetaldehyde, benzene, 2-butoxyethanol, 1-chloro-2,3-epoxypropance, chloroform, dibutyl phthalate, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, N-ethyl-N-nitro-ethanamine, quartz, styrene, and trichloroethylene.

By David Liu

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