Estrogen Polution in the Environment

Questions to Doctor Robert N Hoover, MD, PhD, Director of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program in the Intramural Research Program of the National Cancer Institute at the NIH’s Director’s Wednesday afternoon lecture series – May 16, 2007 – “Hormones and Breast Cancer”

Question: With having told us a little bit about the association between estrogen and breast cancer, I was wondering if you would comment on current concerns about phytoestrogen in the environment, particularly in food products?

Answer: There has been a whole movement of concern about estrogenic substances in the environment and what impact they may have on cancers as well as other diseases. When I first started to go to meetings where this was talked about I was somewhat skeptical. Then somebody showed me the data of the vast numbers of women in this country (U.S.) who are taking oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies and what happens when their waste products goes into the sewage system (then into the Chesapeake Bay). The concentrations are really flabbergastingly high of steroid hormones and synthetic hormones. I think there is an issue.

Most of the hard data relates to changes in fish. I know of no solid human data that says it a risk to females, but that has not been well studied. The D.E.S study has made me a little worried about the fetus and fetal exposure might be, but in fact it’s an extremely hard exposure to measure and attempts to do it have not been terribly successful one way or the other.


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