BPA Linked to Prostate Cancer

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Cincinnati, OHResults of a new study just released link the potentially carcinogenic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) with prostate cancer. The study, though small, found high levels of BPA in men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Additionally, the researchers found that exposure to BPA disrupts cell division, potentially affecting the development of cancer in exposed individuals.

“The BPA level found in cancer patients is about two- to four-fold higher than the median level found in larger population studies in America,” PLOS ONE lead study author Shuk-mei Ho, director of the Cincinnati Cancer Center and professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, told She noted that occupational exposure to BPA, such as working in a polycarbonate manufacturing plant, is typically associated with a 10- to 20-fold increase in levels of the chemical.

BPA is everywhere. Used to make hard, polycarbonate plastics, it is found many food product containers including cans, receipts and plastic water bottles. It has been linked to cancers, neurological defects, diabetes and obesity. In the US, BPA exposure is widespread, with more than 90 percent of the population suspected of having some level of the chemical.

The initial part of the PLOS ONE study analyzed urine samples from 60 men who visited the urology clinic at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. The data revealed elevated levels of BPA in the men who had prostate cancer compared with the men who did not.

Another key finding was the presence of higher levels of BPA in men under the age of 65 diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer typically affects men 65 years and older, therefore, this higher presence of BPA in younger men suggests the chemical may indeed cause long-term health effects, since widespread use of BPA began about 50 years ago, Ho said. She also noted that their findings suggest the need for earlier prostate cancer screenings.

The researchers also looked at normal and cancerous prostate cells as well as biomarkers associated with cancer development, in a separate cell model study. They found that exposing cells to BPA led to abnormal DNA distribution.

“It seems that BPA, even at very low doses, can disrupt the way DNA is partitioned between two daughter cells -- the potential basis for cancer promotion or initiation,” Ho said.

Overall, the findings point to an association between BPA exposure and prostate cancer, not a cause-and-effect relationship. But further studies are needed to clarify the extent of the association -- whether it is causal or not.

“These are very early studies, but I think [their] importance is as a warning sign,” Ho said. “…Because other studies have shown that lifestyle changes can change BPA levels, this really offers… a positive hope of potential ways of diminishing exposure. We think diminishing exposure may be a good idea.”

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