Hundreds of Pesticides Identified as Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Article Author: Brooke Linnehan, Molecular and Cellular Biology, M.S. student, POB Science Translator

As we near Halloween and the fun fall festivities that come with it, we are constantly exposed to spooky and scary things. Whether it’s a haunted house or the start of the new school year, autumn brings an eerie sense of fright that no other season does. But what if the most alarming things are not the spooky decorations in plain sight, but instead, the chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday products that we cannot see? 

The US Environmental Protection Agency has recently identified 296 chemicals of concern found in pesticides, consumer product ingredients, food additives, and drinking water contaminants, and other common products (Cardona and Rudel, 2021). These chemicals were found to actively increase estradiol and progesterone levels in the body, with 71 of these chemicals increasing both. Estradiol and progesterone are two essential hormones for proper breast development and overall reproductive health. Hormones deliver messages to cells to tell them when to grow and divide. The chemicals of concern identified in the recent study are endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDCs), which means they interfere with normal hormone levels and endocrine function. By altering hormone levels, EDCs give cells improper instructions of when to grow and divide. This uncontrollable growth and division of cells is what can ultimately lead to breast cancer.

296 chemicals is a hefty amount to try and tackle at once, but there are several safer options to transform your daily routine into a safer and healthier lifestyle. For example, pesticides can be avoided by simply choosing produce that is labeled U.S. Certified Organic. Additionally, chemicals of concern are often found in plastics and packaging. These can be avoided by opting for glass or stainless steel water bottles and to-go containers that will reduce the need for single-use plastics. Whenever going reusable isn’t an option, it’s best to avoid plastics labeled with codes “3”, “6”, and “7”. Finally, when it comes to beauty products and cosmetics, it may be desirable to trade out all your products at once, but it may be more practical to start with what you use most often, in the largest quantities, and products that stay on your skin for the longest time. For example, if you wear a body lotion every day, that product is placed all over your body and stays there all day. Opting for a safer lotion will reduce your exposure to chemicals of concern. There are many ways to make safer choices, and it’s okay to prioritize higher routes of exposure over others. 

Keeping these chemicals of concern in mind when making our everyday choices can help us avoid a potential breast cancer diagnosis later in life. Use these tips to keep this spooky season full of tricks and treats, not harmful potions!


Cardona, B., & Rudel, R. A. (2021). Application of an in vitro assay to identify chemicals that increase estradiol and progesterone synthesis and are potential breast cancer risk factors. Environmental Health Perspectives, 129(7), 077003. 

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is the author’s opinion. Our authors are not scientists. We are not providing medical advice, but simply sharing publicly available information. When we reference data and databases, we do so with the caveat that most are only as good as the data they are based on. While POB strives to make the information as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the completeness, or adequacy of the contents of any site that is shared, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of these sites.  POB goes to great lengths to avoid declaring shared products as “safe” as there is no legal definition of the word “safe” at this time.  

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