breast cancer

The Problem with PBDE's

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Many of the items we encounter everyday can affect us. One example of this is flame retardants. The flame retardants used on many household items could actually be making you susceptible to illness such as cancer in the long run. Flame retardants are used on furniture, carpets and even baby toys. They contain polyurethane (PBDE) and this chemical has even started showing up in people's bodies.

PBDEs are endocrine disruptors and have been labeled as a possible human carcinogen with "more research needed". However it is important to take action to protect those who are especially exposed. Children are more susceptible though their age in the fact they are still developing. Also, they are exposed to PBDEs through breast milk as children and through the chemicals found in toys and dust that they might put in their mouth.

These PBDE's are being used less in more recent products but are still present in older products that could be in your household. Even worse, the PBDE's don't stay contained. PBDE's can move into the air, water, and soil and even settle in your home as household dust. It is important to be especially careful of flame retardants because they are easily transferable and young children often put products, such as toys, that contain PBDE's in their mouths.  PBDEs have been found in human fat, blood, and breast milk.

To prevent exposure to them: buy flame retardant free products, vacuum and mop household surfaces, wash hands, dispose of contaminated items, and replace flame retardant cushions with flame retardant free cushions. Something as simple as keeping your house dust free can make a huge difference in protecting yourself in the long run.

By: Sara Frawley

Sources: http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/08/flame-retardants-why-they-re-our-homes-and-how-avoid-them

https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=900&tid=94

The Squeeze on Sunscreen

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Long days on the beach usually consist of slathering on a high SPF sunscreen and hoping you don't get burnt. But is this the best thing we can do to prevent melanoma? Although sunscreen is meant to prevent skin cancer, some sunscreens contain so many chemicals that they can actually be harmful. So with more than being 3,000,000 people diagnosed with skin cancer yearly, what should we do?

Firstly, there is no proof that sunscreen can even prevent melanoma successfully compared to other methods. There are two types of rays that can be harmful to our skin. UVB rays are what cause burns and nonmelanoma skin cancers while UVA rays penetrate deeper and are responsible for suppressing the immune system and creating a higher risk for melanoma. Although UVA rays are the culprit, they are harder to prevent and are often less protected against with sunscreen compared to UVB rays.

Aside from sunscreen offering limited protection, they can also contain harmful chemicals. Sunscreens can be ingested in many ways. Whether this is through spraying in the air or applying to lips. Additionally they are often made to last longer and adhere to the skin better, making them powerful skin penetrators. So it should be no surprise when these chemicals can be found in blood urine and breast milk.

Many of these UV filters such as oxybenzone can actually mimic hormones. These chemical filters are often not tested for the hazardous results they can cause. This is because the FDA uses a grandfathered clause from the 1970s (47 years ago). The most worrisome of the filters is oxybenzone. It is found in 65% of non mineral sunscreens and is a weak estrogen and antiandrogen. This means it is linked to lowered testosterone levels in teen boys and men. It is also linked to endometriosis in women and causes skin allergies. This is very scary considering it is also found in 96% of the population. Luckily, it is easy to reduce your exposure by using mineral sunscreens that don't contain oxybenzone.

Other ways to reduce your exposure while still preventing melanoma are by wearing hats or swim shirts, finding shade, using sunglasses, avoiding the sunniest times of the day, and considering the UV index and ingredients in the sunscreen you use.

Clearly, it is always important to consider the ingredients in any product you use. Avoiding sun burns is essential in preventing melanoma so while it is important to use sunscreen, there are healthier alternatives. By using a mineral sunscreen with a high UV index, you can prevent damage to your hormone systems.

By: Sara Frawley

Transgender Frogs

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What would you do if you were a boy that started to grow eggs in your testes? This probably sounds strange, but this is happening to frogs that are exposed to one of the most widely used herbicide, Atrazine.

Pesticides and herbicides are full of chemicals made to kill certain things- whether it be plants or bugs. If they’re able to kill weeds, imagine what they could be doing to us. Pesticides and herbicides can run off from farms into nearby streams and rivers and end up in our water. In fact, you've probably been exposed to this chemical when eating, drinking water, or even playing sports. Atrazine is often used for killing weeds and is even found on turf. It is so widely used in the United States, that it is the most commonly found pesticide found in drinking water.

Atrazine is very harmful because it is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it disrupts the hormones in your body which send signals to your cells. This finding that atrazine can change frogs' genders is so significant because frogs are an indicator species. They indicate the true effects that a chemical can have in high amounts. So if frogs are suddenly growing eggs in their testes, imagine what this could be doing to humans.

In humans, Atrazine causes hormonal disruption, harmful effects on the reproductive system, and is linked to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer. Also, even though Atrazine is so widely used, recent analysis prove that they are not that significant in maintaining plant growth and would result in less than 1% of yield losses. So, is that extra 1% worth our health?

Clearly, Atrazine causes harmful changes, but luckily it can be easy to avoid. Buying Organic products and supporting local farmers ensures your own health and allows organic farmers to continue farming naturally. Also, you don’t need to buy all your foods organic. Some foods such as EWG's Clean 15, are less susceptible pesticides. Even if you can’t buy everything organic, even the smallest changes can have a great impact.

By Sara Frawley

 

Cautious Carnivore

The happy life of my thirteen year old brother, living on a western diet, filled with hamburgers, ham sandwiches, steaks, and video games. We call him the family carnivore.

So of course when I came home after reading research about how a high fat diet full of red meat is linked to breast cancer, I made sure to tell him- and he wasn’t exactly happy. On top of making him switch his shampoos, I was now telling him to limit his favorite foods. This proved to be an great lesson for me on how important sharing information is. Although he perfectly fit the criteria for greatest risk, due to being in puberty and not being obese despite his diet, he still didn’t want to listen to me. However, after telling him about the research he was slightly more convinced.

A high fat diet with fats from red meat has been shown to cause cancer, especially when combined with the timing of puberty. Puberty is a window of susceptibility where because our body is growing so quickly, we are more susceptible to endocrine disrupting compounds. A high fat diet, for example, contains endocrine disrupting compounds because fats in red meat mimic the natural hormones progesterone and estrogen. These two hormones are produced during, and help control, puberty. A disruption in these hormones can have many harmful effects in the long run, including breast cancer.

Even if you are not gaining a significant amount of weight from the fat, you might not be in the clear. Research has shown that high fat diets are more harmful for people that are NOT obese. So, even if you eat a high fat diet and don’t gain a lot of weight from it, you should still consider limiting the amount of fat from red meat that you consume.

While there may still be important nutrients in red meat, it may be wiser to eat it in moderation. After I shared all this information with my brother, although reluctant, he agreed to lower the amount of red meat he eats. In no way, does this mean a diet, but instead a healthy replacement that anyone can easily make. Simply by replacing red meat with chicken, legumes, nuts, and fish, you can lower your risk for breast cancer significantly and greatly increase your overall health in the long run.

By Sara Frawley