DDT, once hailed as the miracle pesticide, was sprayed on crops, trees, and even inside houses throughout the United States in the 1950s and 60s. Though banned in 1972 and not used in the US for more than four decades, DDT has long been a suspect in the risk of breast cancer. New research shows that exposure, even from a long time ago, could be a contributing factor in the development of breast cancer; a connection scientists have been unable to make convincingly until now.
Courtesy of NBC Nightly News
A new study shows that the daughters of pregnant women with high levels of DDT in their blood were 4x more likely to get breast cancer. Dr. Barbara Cohn, Public Health Institute Senior Research Scientist, led the study and said that the DDT exposure increased the daughters’ risk before they were even born. “It isn’t just simply that it changes the level of hormones, but it changes the tissue of the breast itself, the cells that eventually can be the source of cancer.”
The research was conducted using blood samples more than 50 years old that were collected and stored at a Fisher BioServices biorepository. These samples were from pregnant women in the Oakland, CA area between 1959 – 1967.
Dr. Regina Santella, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s School of Public Health, calls this study “critical” because it may show some of the unexplained breast cancer is related to DDT; not just the exposure to the chemical, but also the timing. “It’s really a combination of many things; what you’re exposed to, when you’re exposed, and your response to that exposure.”
By looking at chemicals of the past, researchers are providing evidence so that women can be vigilant in the future and proactive about their health.
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