Endocrine-active chemicals in mammary cancer causation and prevention

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2012 Apr;129(3-5):191-200. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2011.06.003. Epub 2011 Jun 23.


Endocrine-active chemicals alter or mimic physiological hormones. These compounds are reported to originate from a wide variety of sources, and recent studies have shown widespread human exposure to several of these compounds. Given the role of the sex steroid hormone, estradiol, in human breast cancer causation, endocrine-active chemicals which interfere with estrogen signaling constitute one potential factor contributing to the high incidence of breast cancer. Thus, the aim of this review is to examine several common endocrine-active chemicals and their respective roles in breast cancer causation or prevention. The plastic component, bisphenol A (BPA), the synthetic estrogen, diethylstilbestrol (DES), the by-product of organic combustion, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), the soy component, genistein, and the red grape phytoalexin, resveratrol, have some degree of structural similarities to each other and estradiol. However, despite these structural similarities, the in vitro and in vivo properties of each of these chemicals vary greatly in terms of breast cancer causation and prevention. Early life exposure to BPA and DES increases rodent susceptibility to chemically induced mammary carcinogenesis, presumably through retardation of normal mammary gland maturation and/or disrupting the ratio of cell proliferation and apoptosis in the mammary gland. On the other hand, early exposures to genistein and resveratrol protect rodents against chemically induced and spontaneous mammary cancers. This is reported to occur through the ability of genistein and resveratrol to accelerate mammary gland maturation. Interestingly, TCDD, which is the most structurally dissimilar to the above chemicals and functions as an anti-estrogen, also increases chemically induced mammary carcinogenesis through retardation of mammary gland maturation. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Endocrine disruptors'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Breast / drug effects
  • Breast / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Diethylstilbestrol / adverse effects
  • Endocrine Disruptors / adverse effects*
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Genistein / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Phenols / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects
  • Resveratrol
  • Stilbenes / therapeutic use


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Phenols
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Stilbenes
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • Genistein
  • bisphenol A
  • Resveratrol