Environmental Toxins Can Contribute to Breast Cancer

By: Laura Vasquez, MSN, APRN, NP-C


When it comes to breast cancer, environmental toxins women encounter daily can play a role in developing disease, but there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure.

Xenoestrogens are commonly found in everyday products such as plastics, food, pesticides, cosmetics, and cleaning products. These are endocrine disruptors, which can cause an imbalance of estrogen in a form that is more carcinogenic. [1] Xenoestrogens are compounds that resemble or mimic natural estrogen hormones and will bind to estrogen receptors, which are involved in controlling cell growth. [2]

Women’s breasts contain a high number of estrogen receptors, which is one reason that xenoestrogen compounds can contribute to breast cancer by causing a hormonal imbalance with more carcinogenic forms of estrogen. [3]

An estrogen-dominant state can occur because of the addition of xenoestrogen compounds, which can overpower other hormones, such as progesterone, prompting cell growth where the compounds bind to the estrogen receptors. 

An article on sciencedirect.com entitled “Tumors of the Breast” stated that estrogen receptor (ER) positive tumors comprise a majority of breast cancers, accounting for at least 75 percent of all cases. Up to 65 percent of tumors developing in women less than 50 years old are ER-positive, and 80 percent of tumors in women older than 50 are ER-positive. [4]

Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable and get stored in fat cells. As they accumulate, they can create an estrogen-dominant state in the body, and the toxic estrogen can be a risk factor for cancer. [1] I recommend a detoxification routine that includes maintaining a healthy weight, transitioning to a diet free of these chemical compounds, engaging in exercising designed to burn fat, and intermittent fasting. 

Breast cancer rates are on the rise, [5] and as always, there is not one single factor for why a woman develops cancer. The world is becoming more toxic, and humans are exposed to toxins multiple times through many different routes without realizing it. 

While some sources are unavoidable, there are other ways we can control our exposure.

Among the most accessible ways:

  • Commit to eating clean and organic food. Pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones used on crops and livestock are a source of harmful chemicals. Buying organic foods as much as possible can help limit exposure, especially when consuming dairy products. [6]
  • Drink clean water. Reverse osmosis removes impurities from water without chemical or carbon filters. [7]
  • Use organic beauty products. Many cosmetics and beauty products can contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can interfere with hormones. Others contain small quantities of known cancer-causing chemicals. [8] Look for organic or natural products when possible. 
  • Pay attention to cleaning products. Like cosmetics, cleaning products can contain a variety of potentially harmful chemicals. [9] Look for cleaning products that are non-toxic or natural when possible.
  • Be careful with plastics. Avoid using plastics when possible, don’t heat food in plastic containers, and choose a different type of water bottle. It is difficult to avoid plastic – a trip to the grocery store makes its prevalence obvious. Everything is wrapped in it. [10]

I advise people to focus on one thing they can eliminate or control at a time. It isn’t possible to eliminate exposure to all toxins, but awareness can have a positive impact and result in positive changes in breast cancer prevention. 


  1. Xenoestrogens: What are they, how to avoid them. Women in Balance Institute. (2017, October 26). Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://womeninbalance.org/2012/10/26/xenoestrogens-what-are-they-how-to-avoid-them/ 
  2. La Rosa, P., Pellegrini, M., Totta, P., Acconcia, F., & Marino, M. (2014, February 20). Xenoestrogens alter estrogen receptor (ER) α intracellular levels. PloS one. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930606/ 
  3. Yaghjyan, L., & Colditz, G. A. (2011, April). Estrogens in the breast tissue: A systematic review. Cancer causes & control : CCC. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3652894
  4. Estrogen receptor. Estrogen Receptor – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved September 9, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/estrogen-receptor 
  5. Breast cancer statistics: How common is breast cancer? American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/how-common-is-breast-cancer.html 
  6. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Pesticide residues in food. World Health Organization. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/pesticide-residues-in-food 
  7. Crail, C. (2022, April 26). Learn the pros and cons of reverse osmosis water filtration systems. Forbes. Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/home/reverse-osmosis-water-pros-
  8. MD Anderson Cancer Center, & Cordeiro, A. E. and B. (2012, July 10). Beauty Products and cancer: Are you at risk? MD Anderson Cancer Center. Retrieved September 9, 2022, from https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/cancer-prevention-cosmetic-beauty-tips.h17-1589046.html 
  9. Household Chemical Products & Health Risks. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11397-household-chemical-products-and-their-health-risk 
  10. Exposure to chemicals in plastic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2022, from https://www.breastcancer.org/risk/risk-factors/exposure-to-chemicals-in-plastic