Amid growing concerns over health risks posed by traces of the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in the nation’s food supply, a new study indicates that exposure to the chemical in utero may change how the body regulates estrogen, potentially increasing the risk of hormonal problems.
In a study published in the FASEB Journal on June 16, researchers from Yale University determined that exposing mice to bisphenol-A (BPA) before birth changed the estrogen response in more than 1,000 genes in the uterine epigenome of the exposed mice, raising concerns that the chemical could cause estrogen-related diseases in humans.
Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is chemical commonly used to manufacture plastic products, as well as aluminum can liners. The chemical is ubiquitous in America and found in many products, including canned foods, drink bottles, toys, car seats and more.
The study involved exposing pregnant mice to environmentally relevant doses of BPA and comparing them to a control group that was not exposed. Uterine DNA and RNA were then examined.
Researchers found that mice exposed to BPA had permanently altered genes resulting in changes in gene expression in more than 1,000 genes.
In the new study, the affected genes that are regulated by estrogen and are implicated in the formation of estrogen-related disease, include infertility, endometriosis, endometrial cancer, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, neurodegenerative disease, obesity and breast cancer.
Researchers said the majority of genes that showed altered expression affect estrogen response after puberty. Changes to the uterus are often not present at birth after in utero exposure to BPA or in early life, however, changes become apparent after sexual maturity.
“Gene–environment interactions driven by early life xenoestrogen exposure likely contributes to increased risk of estrogen-related disease in adults,” the study’s authors concluded.
Concerns regarding BPA have been renewed over the years as exposure in utero has been linked to female reproductive disorders, endometrial hyperplasia and breast cancer.
A study published in FASEB Journal in 2014 linked in utero BPA exposure to increased risk of food intolerances during infancy, even at levels lower than current safety limits.
Another study published in 2014 concluded prenatal exposure to BPA may raise a child’s likelihood of experiencing breathing problems by the age of five. The higher the urinary concentration of BPA during pregnancy, the greater the risk of wheezing for the child.