Research at the Columbia University reveals that women, exposed to the pesticide DDT at an early age, had greater risks of developing breast cancer later in life. It has been around four decades that the use of DDT is banned in the U.S. However, its effects are still being observed in people who were once exposed to it.
The respective study in discussion spanned 60 years and declared women, exposed to DDT, at greater risks of breast cancer. Moreover, the individuals, exposed to the chemical as infants, were more likely to develop breast cancer at a younger age. Similarly, those who were exposed in childhood were more susceptible to developing the disease between the ages of 50 and 54.
The study involved more than 15,000 women who were tracked for more than 60 years. Their blood samples were collected at various points throughout their lives. In addition, the research team noted their age at first DDT exposure, levels of DDT during pregnancy, and age of first breast cancer diagnosis.
The analysis showed that the women who developed breast cancer were diagnosed roughly 40 years following their first exposure to the chemical. Greater exposure of DDT led to the higher risks of the disease. For example, scientists found a doubling of DDT exposure to cause a threefold higher risk of developing post-menopausal breast cancer. The women who had their first exposure before the age of three were at the highest risk of all.
According to the researchers, the time of the exposure really matters. If harmful exposures occur at times when breast tissue is rapidly changing e.g. during puberty, they impact the development of breast in ways that can later result in cancer.
What is causing the problem?
DDT exhibits endocrine-disrupting characteristics. Thus, it could potentially disturb tissue or cell development and cause diseases like cancer to occur. The researchers emphasized that other endocrine disruptors can also trigger this respective risk pattern. Furthermore, they believe that the pattern they uncovered could help lead to early detection and treatment based on when a woman first encountered the chemical.
DDT once became popular due to its efficient killing of insects and protecting crops. It was used all around the world for a long time before its health effects became certain. It was often sprayed from planes and trucks thus, it was hard for the people to avoid its contact. Many people came into contact with it via food and dust. Due to its health-hazard effects, DDT has been banned in America and other countries. However, it is still used in Asia and Africa for fighting malaria.
Steps to minimize the risk of breast cancer
Complete elimination or prevention of the exposure to DDT is nearly impossible. Nonetheless, one can still take steps to minimize the risk of breast cancer. One of the most the easiest ways to do so is to keep yourself physically active. Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. One must avoid excessive alcohol consumption and smoking as well.
A healthy diet can also help you to cut down the risk of breast cancer. One must include fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the diet and avoid sweets and processed meats as much as possible. Just make sure everything you eat is organic and free of synthetic ingredients.