Perinatal Exposures May Impact Breast Development

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals may affect breast development and lactation, increase cancer risk

WEDNESDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- Gestational or perinatal exposure to certain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can alter mammary gland (MG) development, disrupt lactation, and increase susceptibility to breast cancer, according to a review published online June 22 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Julia Green Brody, Ph.D., from the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass., and colleagues reported the current science, public health issues, and research recommendations for evaluating MG development. They integrated the views of 18 experts who participated in the Mammary Gland Evaluation and Risk Assessment Workshop, held in November 2009, in Oakland, Calif. The effects of gestational or perinatal exposure to EDCs on MG development, lactation, and cancer; relative sensitivity of MG and other developmental end points; relevance of animal models to humans; and methods for evaluating MG effects were discussed.

The investigators reported that there are temporal, morphological, and mechanistic similarities between test animal species and humans with respect to normal MG development and MG carcinogenesis. MG development in rodents is affected by diverse chemicals, including those that are not considered primarily estrogenic. Comparison across studies was hindered by inconsistent reporting methods: Some studies were still defining the relationships between altered development and effects on lactation or carcinogenesis, while other studies were reporting altered MG development as the most sensitive endocrine end point. Research recommendations include assessing the relationship between MG development and lactation and cancer, and chemical toxicity testing and risk assessment.

"Early life environmental exposures can alter MG development, disrupt lactation, and increase susceptibility to breast cancer. Assessment of MG development should be incorporated in chemical test guidelines and risk assessment," the authors write.

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