More Concern Over BPA, Link To Breast Cancer

USA Today sounds the latest warning on BPA, or bisphenol A, in a report on growing concerns that the industrial chemical and synthetic estrogen (which is still used as a lining in many canned goods as well as in plastics and other common products) may be linked to breast cancer.

The news report cites a just-released study by advocates at the Breast Cancer Foundation that focuses on the potential dangers of prenatal exposure. According to the report:

Prenatal exposure to this toxic endocrine-disrupting chemical is of even greater concern than childhood exposure.

During the prenatal period, the foundation is set for how the body’s systems develop, and animal and human studies show us that fetal exposure to BPA can set the stage for later-life diseases, including breast cancer.

To understand the mechanism at work, reporter Liz Szabo quotes Tufts biologist Dr. Ana Soto, who published a paper last month that found BPA increased the risk of mammary cancers in rats:

In two studies of rhesus monkeys published last year, other researchers found that BPA disrupted egg development, damaged chromosomes and caused changes in the mammary gland that made animals more susceptible to cancer.

Soto says it's possible that prenatal BPA exposure makes fetuses more sensitive to estrogen, a hormone that drives the growth of most breast cancers. In that way, BPA could indirectly increase the risk of breast cancer later in life.

She notes that even small changes in prenatal estrogen exposure — such as that produced by the extra placenta in a uterus containing fraternal twins — increases the risk of breast cancer in girls and prostate cancer in boys.

Soto's conclusion, according to the paper: "BPA may act as a complete mammary gland carcinogen."

Once your baby is born, there are several precautions you can take to limit his or her exposure to BPA, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:


HHS supports the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for infant feeding and supports breastfeeding for at least 12 months whenever possible, as breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for infants.

If breastfeeding is not an option, iron-fortified infant formula is the safest and most nutritious alternative. The benefit of a stable source of good nutrition from infant formula and food outweighs the potential risk of BPA exposure.

Parents should discuss any significant changes to your baby’s diet with your baby’s doctor or nurse.


Worn baby bottles and cups are likely to have scratches that harbor germs and - if they contain BPA - may release small amounts of the chemical.


Be careful how you heat up your child’s breast milk or formula. Studies have found there is a very small amount of BPA in plastics and other packaging materials that can transfer to food and liquids. Additional traces of BPA levels are transferred when hot or boiling liquids or foods come in contact with packaging made of BPA.

Do not put boiling or very hot water, infant formula, or other liquids into BPA-containing bottles while preparing them for your child.
Before mixing water with powdered infant formula, the water should be boiled in a BPA-free container and allowed to cool to lukewarm.
Ready-to-feed liquid formula can be served at room temperature or gently warmed up by running warm water over the outside of the bottle.
Always remember: Do not heat baby bottles of any kind in the microwave – the liquid may heat unevenly and burn your infant
Sterilize and clean bottles according to instructions on infant formula labels. They should be left to cool to room temperature before adding infant formula.

As a good household practice, only use containers marked “dishwasher safe” in the dishwasher and only use “microwave safe” marked containers in the microwave.
As a good household practice, discard all food containers with scratches, as they may harbor germs and may lead to greater release of BPA.

Liquid Infant Formula. There are small amounts of BPA in liquid infant formulas sold in cans. Infant formula in this packaging can offer important health advantages for some infants, and the proven benefit of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk of BPA exposure.

If you are using liquid infant formula in cans:

Do not heat cans of infant formula on the stove or in boiling water. Ready-to-feed liquid formula can be served at room temperature or gently warmed in a nursing bottle by running warm water over the outside of the bottle.
Powdered Infant Formula. FDA has found that powdered infant formula mix typically has no detectable level of BPA.

Infant Bottles Made with BPA. The six major U.S. manufacturers of baby bottles and infant feeding cups have confirmed to FDA that as of January 2009, they have not manufactured these products using BPA for the U.S. market. These manufacturers represent more than 90% of the U.S. market. These manufacturers produce brands that include Avent, Doctor Brown’s Natural Flow, Evenflow, First Essentials, Gerber, Munchkin, Nuk, and Playtex.

Plastic Containers Made with BPA Used in Food Preparation. Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. In general, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle code 7 may be made with BPA.

Do not put very hot or boiling liquid that you intend to consume in plastic containers made with BPA. BPA levels rise in food when containers/products made with the chemical are heated and come in contact with the food.
Discard all bottles with scratches, as these may harbor bacteria and, if BPA-containing, lead to greater release of BPA.

This program aired on October 8, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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