Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) comprise a group of chemical compounds that have been examined extensively due to the potential harmful effects in the health of human populations. During the past decades, particular focus has been given to the harmful effects of EDCs to the reproductive system. The estimation of human exposure to EDCs can be broadly categorized into occupational and environmental exposure, and has been a major challenge due to the structural diversity of the chemicals that are derived by many different sources at doses below the limit of detection used by conventional methodologies. Animal and in vitro studies have supported the conclusion that endocrine disrupting chemicals affect the hormone dependent pathways responsible for male and female gonadal development, either through direct interaction with hormone receptors or via epigenetic and cell-cycle regulatory modes of action. In human populations, the majority of the studies point towards an association between exposure to EDCs and male and/or female reproduction system disorders, such as infertility, endometriosis, breast cancer, testicular cancer, poor sperm quality and/or function. Despite promising discoveries, a causal relationship between the reproductive disorders and exposure to specific toxicants is yet to be established, due to the complexity of the clinical protocols used, the degree of occupational or environmental exposure, the determination of the variables measured and the sample size of the subjects examined. Future studies should focus on a uniform system of examining human populations with regard to the exposure to specific EDCs and the direct effect on the reproductive system.
Keywords: Cancer; Endocrine disrupting chemicals; Exposure; Fertility; Mechanism; Reproductive system.
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