A chemical found in plastics may put women exposed to it at greater risk of developing breast cancer, it seems. A study in mice has found that minute doses of the oestrogen-like substance increase breast tissue development, and higher density breast tissue is a risk factor for cancer.
Many hard plastics contain the compound bisphenol A, which can leach into food after heating. The chemical also appears in some dental fillings and the linings of tin cans. Industry began using bisphenol A in the 1950s, but in recent years scientists have documented how it mimics the hormone oestrogen.
Some scientists worry that because oestrogen plays such a crucial role in the development of a fetus’s reproductive system and other organs, exposure to bisphenol A in the womb could cause problems. A recent study of mice exposed in this way found that the artificial compound caused abnormally high levels of growth in the male animals’ prostate glands1.
Now, another team of researchers has investigated the effects of this chemical on female mice: the results are reported in the journal Endocrinology2.