A compound found in many plastic products may be promoting breast cancer growth.
In a recent study, chemistry and biochemistry Associate Professor Subhrangsu Mandal and doctoral student Arunoday Bhan found that when breast cancer and mammary gland cells were exposed to the synthetic compound bisphenol-A (BPA), the BPA worked together with naturally present molecules like estrogen to create abnormal amounts of HOTAIR expression.
HOTAIR is an abbreviation for long, non-coding RNA. Under normal circumstances, estrogen regulates it, turning its expression on and off through interaction with molecules called estrogen receptors (ERs) and estrogen receptor-coregulators (ER-coregulators). But Dr. Mandal and Bhan discovered that BPA disrupted the normal function of the ERs and ER-coregulators both when estrogen was present and when it was not.
This finding may implicate BPA in tumor growth in a variety of cancers because when HOTAIR is expressed, it can suppress genes that would normally slow tumor growth or kill cancer cells.
“We can’t immediately say BPA causes cancer growth, but it could well contribute because it is disrupting the genes that defend against that growth,” Mandal explains. “Understanding the developmental impact of these synthetic hormones is an important way to protect ourselves.”
BPA is widely found in plastics like food storage containers, the lining of canned goods, and, until recently, baby bottles. It belongs to a class of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been shown to mimic natural hormones.
These endocrine disruptors interfere with hormone regulation and the proper function of human cells, glands, and tissue. Studies have linked BPA to problems with reproductive development, early puberty, obesity, and cancers.