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All Estrogens Deemed Carcinogens

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released its list of known carcinogens — a list that has now grown to 228 items.

A new addition to the list is steroidal estrogens — hormones commonly used in estrogen replacement therapy to treat the symptoms of menopause, and in oral contraceptives. This report replaces the listings of individual estrogens and now applies to all estrogens.

New research has shown an association between estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women and a consistent increase in the risk of endometrial cancer, as well as an increase in the prevalence of breast cancer.

The Report on Carcinogens, compiled by the National Toxicology Program at HHS, is published and revised every two years based on new research that is reviewed by government and non-government experts.

HHS officials say Congress orders the Report as a way to keep the public informed about substances and exposure circumstances that are either “known to” or “reasonably anticipated” to cause cancer in humans.

The report does not assess the level of risk posed by the substances listed, nor does it mandate regulatory action; however, it may prompt agencies such as the FDA and OSHA to consider limiting exposure or use of these named products.

The other new additions to the 10th edition of the Report on Carcinogens include:

  • Broad Spectrum Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR)— produced by the sun and artificial sources like sun lamps, tanning beds, medical diagnosis (x-rays) and medical treatment procedures (radiation treatment), and some types of industry. According to the report, UVR is linked to skin cancer, cancer of the lip and melanoma of the eye.
  • Wood dust— Created when machines and tools cut, shape and finish wood, which is most prevalent in sawmills, furniture manufacturing plants and cabinet-making facilities. Cancer of the nasal cavities and
    sinuses is significantly increased among unprotected workers.
  • Nickel Compounds (used in batteries, pigments and ceramics) and Beryllium and berylllium compounds— pose carcinogenic risks when inhaled by miners, alloy workers, and other industrial workers.

SOURCE: HHS 10th edition of the Report on Carcinogens, December 2002; WebMD Health, www.my.webmd.com.