Animal and lab studies have suggested a link between prostate cancer and exposure to the industrial chemical bisphenol A, better known as BPA. A new study from researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, just published by PLoS One, is believed to be the first to report a similar association in people.
The researchers measured urinary BPA levels in 60 urology patients—27 men with prostate cancer and 33 men without. The men with prostate cancer had significantly higher levels of urinary BPA. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that provides preliminary evidence of an association of BPA exposure with PCa [prostate cancer] in a clinical setting,” write the authors.
BPA, a compound first synthesized a century ago, has been used widely in plastics for decades and is present in thousands of consumer and commercial products, so it is virtually impossible to avoid. National studies have estimated that more than 90 percent of the U.S. population has measurable levels of urinary BPA.
The compound is part of a group called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which either mimic or otherwise interfere with estrogens, androgens and other hormones. BPA has already been linked to a variety of illnesses and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, immunological disorders and a range of reproductive abnormalities.
Given all the concern about BPA, what’s a consumer to do? More and more products are being produced and labeled as BPA-free, so at least there’s a choice. The downside, however, is that even less is known about the possible health impacts of substances used to replace BPA.