Xenoestrogens

Definitions of Xenoestrogen:

Any of the by-products of industrial or chemical processing that have estrogen like effects.
(“Xenoestrogen”, http://www.medilexicon.com)

Estrogens that are foreign to the human body.
(Jones, Richard 32)

Xenoestrogen is an environmental hormone that has estrogenic effects on the human body; not much is known about xenoestrogens and is an on going study.  There are studies that show that this hormone is found in pesticides like DDT and industrial chemicals used to synthesize plastics and lifetime exposure to these product can increase risks of diseases like breast cancer and endometriosis .

In the United States incidents of breast cancer cases have risen dramatically over the decades in industrial countries (Jones, Richard 43).  In recent studies it has been found that chemicals that are foreign to the body and have different molecular structures from natural hormones like estrogen can bind to estrogen receptors and cause problems in the female reproductive system.  Some of these problems can be abnormal tissue responses, some can act as antiestrogens (by blocking estrogen from doing its job).

Since the discovery of these xenoestrogens and their possible health issues, some of the products that were used in the environment have now been banned, but not all of them. Here is a chart that has different compounds that xenoestrogens can be found in and the use and a little bit about the compound itself.

Compound Use Comment
Atrazine Weed Killer Used today
DDT Insecticide Banned 1972
Plastics
Bisphenol-A Breakdown product Leaks into fluids when hot
polycarbonate line some canned food, dental sealants
Nonylphenol Plastic softener, water jugs Leaks into fluids room temperature and baby bottles
Phthalates Makes plastics flexible Repellent sprays, plastic plumbing,
vinyl tile, food wraps, some paper and cardboard
Plant Estrogens
Tetrahydrocannabinol Hemp plant Present in marijuana and hashish

(Jones, Richard 35)

DDT and Breast Cancer
Xenoestrogens can be stored in the body fat of animals and humans for long periods of time.  DDT, a weak environmental estrogen, was used in the United States until it was banned because it could cause breast cancer by stimulating the cancer cells to divide uncontrollably; however it is still used in some countries today.  It was found that when DDT broke down in the body it became DDE.  It was thought that women who had high traces of this DDE in their blood were at a higher risk for cancer.  Even though there has been evidence that DDE caused breast cancer there has also been studies that show DDT had no effect on breast cancer at all.  Other studies found that, “Women exposed to relatively high levels of DDT prior to mid-adolescence are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer later in life than women with lower exposures. But exposure after adolescence does not increase risk.” (Jones, Richard 43)

Xenoestrogens role in “Estrogen Dominance” in the female body
Xenoestrogens can cause a hormonal imbalance in the female body creating estrogen dominance because women in today’s society have a higher exposure to environmental estrogens than women in the past.  It is thought that estrogen dominance can cause early onset of puberty in young girls because of growth hormones being added to products like beef and poultry as well as milk products.  But there are other things that help contribute to this early onset of puberty and hormonal imbalance; such as: lowered adrenal function because of the high stress lifestyles and poor diets that are high in  caffeine and sugar.  To minimize the intake of xenoestrogens and reduce the risk of diseases caused by them, it is suggested that women reduce the intake of meat and caffeine.  Women who eat a healthier diet would most likely not develop health problems, like breast cancer.
Some studies show that the imbalance caused by estrogen dominance can cause PMS.  PMS, prememstrual syndrome, is caused by low levels of progesterone in the later half of the menstrual cycle; with an increase in estrogen from the environment, PMS can become elevated to a new level.  If women balanced their diets, by cutting back on food that are high in sugar, caffeine, red meat, and salt it would help balance their body as well as make PMS not so harsh.
(Maccaro, Janet 102)

Endometriosis and Xenoestrogens
In a study that was conducted by Northwestern University, it was suggested, “that endometriosis defects [were] triggered when an embryo [was] exposed to environmental toxins [aka xenoestrogens]” (Aphrodite).  It was found that women who suffered from endometriosis had the enzyme aromatase in the endometrium.  Aromatase produces estrogen and causes tissue to grow on “pelvic organs and mimic uterine lining”.  The endometrium is supposed to be located inside the uterus and have no traces of the enzyme aromatase.  In the study it was also found that a protein called SF1 produces aromatase, this protein is normally shut off however for some reason it was not in the women who had endometriosis.  To treat endometriosis, they took aromatase inhibitors that block estrogen from forming to increase the responsiveness to progesterone.   Why increase progesterone response?  “Women with endometriosis have a progesterone receptor that is inappropriately turned off” (Aphrodite).  If the receptor were functioning under normal circumstances it would block the endometriosis growth.  The study believed that the cause of absence of progesterone receptor was caused by the exposure of the embryo to the “environmental pollutant dioxin and the synthetic estrogen DES” (Aphrodite).

Dangers of Xenoestrogens:

This video gives a little information about  xenoestrogens and introduces a possible remedy to balancing out the bad effects of xenoestrogens with a molecule called Indole-3-Carbinol.

Indole-3-Carbinol:

This video might seem awkward because the lady is talking about a vitamin that they are marketing to women, but the information she gives is really good.  She talks about how Indole-3-Carbinol helps balance the body and metabolize the estrogen.

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