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Bisphenol A May Increase Breast Cancer Risk

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A study was done in animals, not in people. The results suggest that bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in many household products made of plastic, may increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer. BPA also may contribute to boys and girls going through puberty at an earlier than normal age. Hormones play a role in these health issues, which suggests that BPA may affect hormone levels or change how hormones affect hormone-sensitive tissue such as prostate and breast tissue.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health and chemical experts believe that BPA is safe and can be used in plastic products used by people. This study was done using laboratory mice. The mice had abnormal breast and prostate tissue growth after being exposed to BPA.

Because people aren't mice, some doctors and scientists feel that concluding BPA is dangerous to people because of this mouse study isn't valid. Still, animal research often gives us important clues as to how chemicals in the environment affect human health. Many scientists and lawmakers are now calling for either restrictions on or complete banning of plastics made with BPA.

Quite a few chemicals that have negative effects on people do so over a lifetime of exposure, beginning in early childhood (or even as a fetus before birth). This could be the case with BPA. The real concern about BPA is infant and childhood exposure. Exposure in infancy and early childhood, when organs are still forming and growing, may set the stage for cancer or other health problems later in life.

It's hard to avoid BPA. The chemical is found in polycarbonate (PC) plastic bottles. Many baby bottles, water bottles, and tin can plastic linings are made with PC plastic. PC plastic is one of many different types of plastic. Many products are marked with a number inside a small triangle to indicate the type of plastic used to make that container. This symbol is usually on the bottom of the container. PC plastics that contain BPA usually have a 7 inside the triangle.

Some companies are starting to make plastic products without BPA. If you're concerned and would like to avoid BPA, visit a company's Web site and search for any information they have about BPA. For example, Nalgene, a company that makes many types of refillable water bottles, has pledged that it will get rid of BPA in all of its products.

For more information on BPA and how to reduce any exposure you may have, you might want to visit the Environmental Working Group Web page on BPA.

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