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Environmental contaminants may increase susceptibility to breast cancer – Digital AIM

Some people have hereditary factors that make them susceptible to developing cancer; However, certain pollutants could impact the immune system and trigger breast cancer, said Karen Nava Castro, from the Center for Atmospheric Sciences (CCA) of Unam, Mexico.

Breast cancer cell photographed with a scanning electron microscope. (Photo: Dicyt)

Members of the CCA and the Institute for Biomedical Research (IIBm) of Unam seek to determine how some compounds, such as polycyclic aromatics (PAHs) and phthalates, influence the defense system, regardless of the genetic factors.

"People may develop breast cancer because of its genetic load, but this condition can also be modulated by exposure to pollutants."

Phthalates and PAHs are of interest to university students because we breathe them daily because they are associated with suspended particles. The member of the group Genotoxicología y Mutagenesis Ambientales of the CCA explained that if the defense system is deficient due to the presence of these chemical compounds, the cancer would be much more aggressive or grow in a shorter time, compared to those who are not exposed.

The immune system is responsible for defending the organism from bacteria and viruses; "In the case of cancer, it modulates the growth of tumor cells, which are also regulated by hormones."

Thus, endocrine disrupting compounds or hormonal disruptors are risk factors. They are chemical substances that interact with the endocrine system; structurally they stick to the body's hormonal receptors and impact the immune response, which is associated with the development of granulomas.

Every day we breathe potentially dangerous substances. Phthalates (esters of phthalic acid, mainly used as plasticizers), for example, are present in everyday products such as containers for transporting food, makeup, creams, lotions, baby bottles and soaps, among others.

Polycyclic aromatic compounds are generated during the incomplete combustion of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage and other organic substances such as tobacco.

Unam experts analyze its effect on the immune system: "it is known that some parameters are modified , in particular concerning different types of cancer, but its effect on the immune system is not yet described, and that is what we began to study. We work with cells in vitro and observe that some compounds cause cells to divide more, and others cause them to 'arrest' or stop working. "

Another dangerous substance is bisphenol A, which is usually found in plastic bottles or containers of the same material used to store food; it is released and goes into water or food, "and we ingest it."

"It is known that in the countryside conditions are healthier, air and water are cleaner, so life expectancy is greater, at least in relation to this type of diseases; However, in large cities, in addition to being exposed to pollutants, stress is suffered: "It is a sum of factors that make us susceptible to a greater degree".

Cells are the first to be exposed to the substances we breathe and we eat from birth, and that will reverberate in adulthood; "That is why in this study, and in the long term, we set ourselves the objective of creating awareness among the population and among decision makers, showing them the risk of implementing measures that reduce air pollution."

In Mexico, he concluded, little research is done on the contamination of water, land and air, and its impacts on health, "and that is the part we want to make known so that we all know the risk and be part of the solution ".

Source: Unam / Dicyt

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