APR 03, 2017 2:55 PM PDT

BPA Substitute Makes Breast Cancer Cells More Aggressive

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In the quest to reduce exposure to BPA, a chemical that’s linked to cancer, manufacturers are turning to BPA substitutes. But they may have to look further for a solution, because BPA substitutes have recently been shown to induce breast cancer cell division.

Short for bisphenol A, BPA is a chemical found in plastics and resins since the 1960s. Over time, research into bisphenol A suggests that it may have adverse effects on human health through its endocrine-disrupting properties. And although the BPA is part of the plastic products, concerns were waged that this chemical could seep into foods and be accidentally ingested. In large quantities, BPA exposure could affect metabolism and behavior; it has also been linked to cancer in animal models.

As the industry moves towards “BPA-free” products, manufacturers have turned to bisphenol S (BPS), a substitute for BPA. This chemical is found in everyday products like hard plastics, money, and receipts.

But BPS may carry similar risks to BPA, according to recent experiments by scientists at the Oakland University School of Health Sciences, Rochester, Michigan.

In particular, BPS seems to act like the hormone estrogen, and induces the proliferation of cancer cells. The team exposed estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer cells to BPS and found that the cells multiplied by between 12 to 60 percent with varying doses. A cancer cell line carrying pathogenic mutations in the BRCA1 gene also showed similar results with BPS stimulation. The full investigation details will be presented at the Endocrine Society's 99th annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

"Despite hopes for a safer alternative to BPA, studies have shown BPS to exhibit similar estrogen-mimicking behavior to BPA," said Sumi Dinda, the study's lead investigator. "So far, BPS seems to be a potent endocrine disruptor."

Additional studies are necessary to confirm the effects of BPS on breast cancer cells, and to also provide a mechanism for how the chemical makes cancer cells seemingly more aggressive. But, with their current results, Dr. Dinda concludes that, “if a woman has a mutated BRAC1 gene and uses products containing BPS, her risk for developing breast cancer may increase further."

Of note, the FDA has stated "BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods." That is to say the levels of BPA in manufactured plastics is not high enough to cause harm. In addition, the European Food Safety Authority added "BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels."

Additional sources: Endocrine Society

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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