Ever since we have routinely added synthetic chemicals to everyday household and personal care products, the breast cancer rate among women in the UK has risen dramatically, says Breast Cancer UK, a British charity.

According to the UK office for National Statistics, in 1971 out of 100,000 women, only 66 got breast cancer, in 2010 the figure jumped to 126 per 100,000 – an increase of nearly 100%. However, since screening was introduced in 1987, the number of women dying from the disease has been falling steadily.

Women are exposed to toxic chemicals every time they put on makeup, clean the house or use plastic. A growing number of scientists believe that routine exposure to such chemicals may be having an impact on breast cancer rates.

Breast Cancer UK predicts that 1 in every 8 women will develop breast cancer at some time in their lives. This increase in breast cancer rates is expected to continue rising.

The authors of a new report from Breast Cancer UK say that it is possible to reduce chemical exposure by taking some simple steps.

Many things that people come into contact with every day have chemicals we do not know very much about, especially what long-term exposure might cause. Examples of products include the lining of bottles and food cans, plastic lunch boxes, personal care products, cosmetics, and cleaners. According to Breast Cancer UK, many of these products do contain chemicals that raise the risk of developing breast cancer.

A book published in 2009, titled “No Family History” showed clearly that exposure to cosmetics, toiletries, hormones in food, and household cleaners is behind the considerable increase in breast cancer rates.

The charity says that the chemicals in these products typically end up inside a woman’s body. On a daily basis, people may be rubbing hormone-distributors which make their way into the body through their skin. We are also eating and drinking these chemicals.

By changing our habits, we can reduce our exposure to these hazardous chemicals considerably.

Shop for safer products – products today list which chemicals are included in their manufacture or preparation. In the UK, look for goods that have a certified label for organic ingredients. Labels with few ingredients tend to have products which are less toxic. Also, when using these products, do so less often and in smaller amounts.

Be extra careful with food and drink – if you are drinking or eating chemical-laden products, you are much more likely to have an accumulation of hazardous chemicals in your body. Be especially careful with babies and young children, they cannot eliminate these compounds from their system as well as adults can, especially BPA and other hormone disrupting substances. Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. revealed in Hormones & Cancer in 2010, in a study in mice that prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals can raise a female’s risk of cancer later on in life. Examples of hormone-altering substances include bisphenol-A (BPA) and diethylstilbestrol (DES)

Cut down on consuming or using the following products:

  • Foods and drinks that come in cans. Look out for cans that say they are BPA free on the label. The majority of cans contain Bisphenol A (BPA). A chemical that upsets our hormone system – BPA has been associated with breast cancer risk.
  • Products with fragrance added, such as cleaning products, washing powder (detergent) and air fresheners. In order to make them unpalatable (undrinkable), manufacturers commonly add PVC.
  • Body care products – avoid, or cut down on the ones that contain TEA (triethanolamine), Formaldehyde, DEA (diethanolamine), Parabens, Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate, Phthalates (DEHP, BBP, DBP, DMP, DEP), DMDM Hydantoin, Triclosan, Fragrance, PEGs (polyethylene glycol), and anything with “glycol” or “methyl.
  • Hand washes and anti-bacterial soaps – look for products without Triclosan, which can disrupt hormones and has been associated with breast cancer risk
  • Toothpaste – avoid those that contain Triclosan. If you really want to go back to basics, brush your teeth with baking soda.
  • Products with Parabens – some drinks, pie fillings, beers, pickles and jams may contain Parabens. Parabens may disrupt the hormones. Cosmetic product labels will list them if they have been added, however food products might not. Seek out Parabens-free goods. Scientists from the University of Reading, England, found traces of Parabens in all the tumor samples taken from women with breast cancer. They added that further studies are needed to find out why.

You can make your own moisturizer by using coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil.

You can make your own cleaning products

  • Window cleaner – mix three tablespoons of vinegar with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Some people say the vinegar-water mix should be 50-50. If the windows are very dirty, use ½ teaspoon of liquid soap, 3 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 cups of water. Shake it all up. Wipe the glass afterwards with newspaper rather than paper toweling them.
  • All purpose disinfectant – mix 2 teaspoons of borax, 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 3 to 4 cups of hot water into a spray bottle. If you want it to be extra powerful, add ¼ teaspoon of liquid soap.
  • General dusting – use a damp cloth. You could add 1 teaspoon of olive oil per ½ cup of vinegar, mix it all together in a bowl and use it to wet a small cloth.

Breast Cancer UK says that the government should take action to reduce people’s exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.

Clare Dimmer, chair of Breast Cancer UK, said:

“This shocking increase in breast cancer rates over just one generation underlines how vital it is that all the root causes of breast cancer are fully explored. Whilst death rates from breast cancer have thankfully decreased, still more and more of us are getting the disease. This epidemic is clearly not down to genetics and lifestyle choices alone.

Breast Cancer UK calls on the Government to finally start tackling the growing health risk associated with our exposure to hazardous chemicals, such as Bisphenol A, that have been scientifically linked to breast cancer as well as many other diseases, and to take action to ban them. Inadequate action by the Government is putting an unacceptable ethical and economic cost on the NHS – and on you and I.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist