Toxins and Breast Cancer


toxins and breast cancerI lecture quite frequently on cleansing, detoxification and digestive health and I consistently shock people with a statistic published by The Lancet, a British medical journal, from 20 years ago that stated: “Women who are constipated are 4 times more likely to develop breast cancer”. Wow, that’s a scary statistic!

Now let’s take a second and try to connect the dots and reason why that might be. I think it can be found in the correlation between toxins and fat. When faced with toxicity, our bodies retain water in an effort to dilute water-soluble toxins, and fat to try to dilute fat-soluble toxins. Breast tissue is primarily made up of fat cells and is located close to lymph nodes and lymph nodes filter out and trap bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and other unwanted substances to make sure they are safely eliminated from the body.

What happens when this elimination gets slowed down, backed up or built up? Toxins overload the body leading to disease such as cancer.

According to the American National Cancer Institute, in 2010, there were an estimated 209,060 new cases of breast cancer (207,090 female and 1,970 male) and 40,230 deaths from breast cancer (39,840 female and 390 male). Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women and the scary fact is that currently one in 8 women is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime and one in 27 will die of it.

So why is it so much worse now than ever before? Since the industrial revolution, we have lived with the concept of environmental toxins. Over the last 100 years we have introduced at least 75,000 new chemicals into our environment and at the rate we’re currently going, we’re introducing over 1000 new chemicals every year. For most of these, there have been no long-term studies proving that they are safe for human consumption or exposure. In fact, most of them are known to be unsafe for humans at some level.

Let’s focus on hormone disrupters for a moment because I believe they are a major contributing factor to the surge in breast cancer cases. Hormone-disrupting compounds are all around us and we are often exposed to them without knowing it. Fruits and vegetables commonly have pesticide residues unless they are certified organic. A lot of nonorganic animal products contain added hormones and antibiotics and some fish have high levels of mercury and dioxins.

Hormone-disrupting compounds are found in well and city water which expose you to hormones on a daily basis if you are drinking it. Other offenders are: cleaning products, air fresheners, cosmetics, perfumes, shampoos and hairsprays. They are even found in dry cleaning solvents, carpeting, vinyl floors, mattresses, and the list go on and on.

Perhaps one of the biggest culprits though, is plastics. The more flexible plastic containers which foods are packaged and stored in can leach out harmful chemicals. There is an excellent website I refer to on a regular basis called The Breast Cancer Fund. They work to connect the dots between breast cancer and exposures to chemicals and radiation in our everyday environments. Their mission states “In response to the public health crisis of breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Fund identifies — and advocates for elimination of — the environmental and other preventable causes of the disease.”

The Breast Cancer fund has identified the following chemicals in plastics:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most pervasive chemicals in modern life. It's a building block of polycarbonate (often #7) plastic and is used in thousands of consumer products, including food packaging. Research shows that BPA exposure is linked to breast cancer.

  • Phthalates are a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in PVC or #3 plastic. Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer. Some phthalates also act as weak estrogens in cell culture systems.

  • Vinyl chloride is formed in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or #3 plastic. It was one of the first chemicals designated as a known human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It has also been linked to increased mortality from breast cancer among workers involved in its manufacture.

  • Dioxin is formed in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or #3 plastic. Dioxin has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known human carcinogen, and is also an endocrine disruptor.

  • Styrene can leach from polystyrene or #6 plastic and is found in Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, carryout containers and opaque plastic cutlery. It has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a human carcinogen.

On a positive note, our exposure to chemicals is something we can begin to control. Get to know the chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer and take action to reduce your risk. 

How to Reduce Your Toxic Load

It's easy to become anxious about the amount of toxins to which we are exposed to everyday. The key is to educate ourselves in ways to minimize our exposure and support the body to detoxify them.

  • Deal with constipation. If you are having less than 2-3 bowel movements a day, then you are constipated!

  • Complete a full body cleanse twice a year. There are excellent cleansing kits at your local health food store. Look for one that works on all 7 organs of elimination: liver, lungs, colon, kidneys, skin, blood and lymphatic system.

  • Buy certified organic food as much as possible. You are worth the investment.

  • Drink filtered water out of glass, stainless steel or ceramic containers and cook and store foods in glass, whenever possible.

  • Limit canned foods as much as possible as most cans contain BPA in the lining. Eden Organics uses BPA free cans so you can trust them.

  • Take an essential fatty acid supplement daily to get your good dose of Omega 3’s and limit your fish intake since toxins accumulate in the fat of fish.

  • Buy natural, chemical-free soaps, shampoos, conditioners, detergents, and cleaning supplies.

  • Instead of using pesticides and herbicides on your lawn and garden, use natural pest control instead. A few weeds won’t kill anyone… do you really need to keep up with the Jones’?

  • Look for earth friendly or green products at your local hardware or do-it-yourself store. There are even organic, chemical-free options for mattresses out there.

The key is to do your homework and become aware of what you are putting in your body, what you are exposed to and what you can do about it. The more you know, the more you can do for yourself and your family.


Sources – What are Lymph and Lymph Nodes – Accessed 27 Feb 2011 - Endocrine potency of wastewater: contents of endocrine disrupting chemicals and effects measured by in vivo and in vitro assays. – Accessed 4 Oct 2011 - Sources of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in urban wastewater, Oakland, CA. – Accessed – 4 Oct 2011 - Accessed 4 Oct 2011 - Breast Cancer Fund Chemicals in Plastics – Accessed 3 Oct 2011 – Eden Organics Bisphenol-A (BPA) Free Can Lining – Accessed 3 Oct 2011

By Caroline Farquhar| November 03, 2011
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Caroline Farquhar

Caroline Farquhar

Caroline Farquhar is Naturally Savvy’s Digestive Care Specialist. Caroline is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Energy Medicine Practitioner, and Reiki Practitioner.

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