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Early Chemical Exposures May Affect Breast Health: Report
Date:6/22/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to common chemicals during critical periods of breast development may affect breast growth, the ability to breast-feed and breast cancer risk, a new report contends.

Some of these chemicals are found in ordinary household products such as certain types of plastic water bottles, canned foods and laundry detergents, the researchers noted.

With this in mind, the study authors called for chemical test guidelines for industry requiring that scientists test the chemicals' effects on early mammary gland development.

Scientists from the U.S. National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Silent Spring Institute collaborated on the report, published online June 22 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"If we try to figure out what causes breast cancer, we have to look at the breast when we do the chemical safety tests," said Ruthann Rudel, research director at Silent Spring.

Currently, protocols for testing don't require looking at mammary tissues, Rudel said, so it is rarely done. "We could be missing a lot," she said.

Experts believe these early disturbances in mammary glands due to chemical exposure may boost the risk of harmful effects later in life. These could include impaired lactation (secretion of breast milk), abnormal breast growth in men and breast cancer.

One impetus for the study, in fact, was an increase in early breast development in girls, which is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

The report also noted that although experts recommend that all infants be breast-fed exclusively for six months, some 3 million to 6 million women in the United States are unable to produce milk or have difficulty breast-feeding each year.

The scientists interviewed 18 experts, reviewed research and discussed the issue at a
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