Nearly 28% of women who work as civilian or military firefighters develop breast cancer
A recent study from the medical journal Toxics suggests that PFAS exposure may cause breast cancer, but a strong connection between the two cannot be established. Nonetheless, PFAS might be potential risk factors for breast cancer, and the compounds, even in low exposure levels, could have a very harmful impact on women's health. Researchers analyzed multiple studies concerning breast cancer risk and the following chemicals from the PFAS group:
The meta-analysis found eight studies providing data appropriate for the evaluation of the correlation between PFOA exposure and breast cancer risk. As one of the most known chemicals from the PFAS group, PFOA has the strongest link to breast cancer. Furthermore, six studies offered data suitable for the assessment of PFHxS, which also had a positive correlation with breast cancer. Interestingly, PFOS and PFNA were found to have a negative association with breast cancer risk.
The first study assessing cancer risk among firefighters that included women as participants, Fangchao Ma Florida, reveals that breast cancer is the most prevalent malignant disease among females with this job, along with skin, thyroid, and lung cancer. Exposure to PFAS from AFFF might be a significant contributing factor to this grim statistic. According to a study by the Environmental Working Group, the presence of these toxic chemicals in the blood may increase breast cancer risk in women. Even at low doses, PFAS exposure can change the structure and growth of mammary glands.
When it comes to animal studies, PFOA was found to cause significant changes and abnormalities in the mammary glands of lactating mice regularly exposed to it. It is a known fact that altered timing of mammary gland development can increase the risk of breast cancer. In humans, medical studies discovered that exposure to some PFAS can lead to higher growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells. A study of Inuit women from Greenland found that those with greater PFAS concentrations in their blood had elevated breast cancer risk.
PFAS interfere with normal hormone functioning, which increases breast cancer risk
The activist organization Breast Cancer Action states that PFAS impact the ability of cells to communicate with each other and interfere with normal hormone functioning, which promotes breast cancer. Unsettlingly, in 2019, the company 3M, one of the major AFFF manufacturers, tried to raise awareness of breast cancer, which is known as pinkwashing. One of the 3 M's own consultants warned that PFAS are "one of the strongest cancer promoters" he has ever seen.
A recent study from the medical journal Environment International found that:
- PFOS exposure implies a higher breast cancer risk for women below the age of 50
- the higher the concentration of PFOS in the blood, the greater the breast cancer risk
- women below 50 had a higher risk of estrogen receptor positive tumors, which occur in some types of breast cancer, compared to those older than 50 as a result of PFHxS and PFOS exposure
- PFOS and PFUnDA were associated with sex hormones, including follicle-stimulating hormones and testosterone, in female teenagers between 12 and 17, and if these harmful substances continuously affect sex hormones, they may cause imbalances, contributing to breast cancer risk
Finally, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition is also concerned about how PFAS exposure can alter mammary gland development and may increase breast cancer risk later in life. If you are a woman who worked as a civilian or military firefighter and now struggle with breast cancer, please feel free to contact our skilled attorneys, as they have over 30 years of experience in toxic exposure cases. While military firefighters have a greater breast cancer risk, as they use AFFF more often, civilian firefighters can develop it, too.
Breast cancer, more common among female military firefighters
There are roughly 700 military bases with known AFFF contamination across the country, as this fire suppressant has been used substantially more frequently in those places to extinguish jet fuel and petroleum fires. Not only are the PFAS in AFFF harmful to health, promoting breast cancer, among other serious diseases, but also to the environment. This firefighting foam is manufactured from synthetic materials, including solvents and foaming agents, some of which are toxic, such as:
- hydrocarbon surfactants
- freezing point depressant
- viscosity leveler
- foam booster
As a result, in addition to PFAS exposure, female firefighters are also exposed to these hazardous agents, which only increases their breast cancer risk. Furthermore, the very protective equipment they wear during the job contains PFAS, and when it becomes old, these chemicals are more likely to escape as they become airborne. Consequently, if you worked as a military firefighter, you should undergo breast cancer screening more frequently than regular women, as this is the most common malignant disease among women in this occupation.