A study reveals that a banned pesticide might make breast cancer victims. DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was taken out of use 30 years ago because of the harmful effects it had on people’s health and on the environment.
However, it was shown that women who used to be exposed to high levels of DDT while they were still in the womb have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer than the women who haven’t.
The study was conducted by researchers from California and it involved mothers and daughters from the state, whose data was analyzed over more than 50 years.
DDT is an organochloride that is almost odorless and tasteless. It was developed in the 19th century and it was mainly used to kill insects. However, the U.S. government decided to restrict its use and then ban it from the market because it harmed both the environment and humans.
The pesticide is still used against malaria in Africa, due to the high risk people face in the area.
Even if exposure to DDT has been associated with various forms of cancer, in 2002, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no clear evidence that people who inhaled the pesticide are more likely to become ill.
This study involves three generations of women – daughters, mother, grandmothers from San Francisco who have been tracked since 1960. Their aim was to determine if exposure to toxic elements might have an impact on pregnant women’s children many years later.
It is not the first time DDT is suspected to be the cause behind breast cancer in women. Previous lab research has shown that there might be a link because DDT can act similarly to the way estrogen acts – that is, it turns genes on and off. This could have a significant impact on the way the breast tissue develops and can turn into breast cancer much later.
The study, led by epidemiologist Barbara Cohn, compared DDT levels in women who did not have breast cancer and 118 women who were in their fifties and were diagnosed with the tumor.
They also took into account other factors, such as age and family history. The results revealed that women who had been exposed to DDT in the uterus had 3.7 more chances to develop breast cancer than others, who had been less exposed or hadn’t been exposed at all.
Moreover, higher exposure was connected to more aggressive tumors and more advanced stages of breast cancers.
Even so, there are a few limitations to the study, given the fact that there was a limited number of participants and there might be other environmental factors that could have caused the development of breast cancer.
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