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Aren’t the increased trends in chronic diseases all down to our lifestyle or do EDCs play a role?

Genetics and life style factors, such as diet, smoking or insufficient physical activity, are undoubtedly major contributors to impaired health. However, there are several important adverse health trends that cannot be ignored. These include increases in hormone-related cancers, and impaired fertility [i].

The speed of the increase of EDC-related diseases and disorders cannot be due to genetics alone, because genes in a population do not change that quickly. This was also one of the conclusions in a CHEM Trust report looking into the scientific evidence relating to breast cancer and exposure to EDCs [ii].

Moreover, although lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol or lack of exercise may be partly responsible for some adverse health trends, the fact that we are seeing similar effects in wildlife, adds to the scientific plausibility that chemical exposures may be at work. For example, several adverse effects have been reported in the males of many wildlife species, such as undescended testes in otters or changes in nesting and parenting behaviour in birds following exposure to EDCs [iii], [iv]. Moreover, laboratory experiments in animals and cell lines, add to the concern that chemicals are also involved in the adverse trends in certain diseases.

Hormone-related cancers are a particular concern, and exposure to EDCs has been suggested to be responsible in part for the rapid increase in breast, prostate and testicular cancers. Testicular cancer is particularly significant as it has been increasing in incidence in recent decades, but this cannot be due to people living longer as it is a disease that is increasingly appearing in younger men [v].

The global cancer burden rose to 14.1 million new cases in 2012, including marked increases in breast cancer, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) [vi].

This page is part of CHEM Trust’s Hormone Disrupting Chemicals FAQ – Full list of questions here.

The next question is “Is the cocktail effect only a hypothesis?“.


[i]. UNEP and WHO: “State of the Science of Endocrine Disruptors 2012” http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/index.html

[ii]. Breast cancer and exposure to hormonally active chemicals – An appraisal of the evidence, CHEM Trust, 2008 http://www.chemtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/BCexposuretochemicals.pdf

[iii]. CHEM Trust report by G. Lyons: “Males under threat – Effects of pollutants on the reproductive health of male vertebrate wildlife”, 2008.

[iv]. EEA Technical report 02/2012: The impacts of endocrine disrupters on wildlife, people, and their environments, The Weybridge +15 (1996-2011) report, 2012, ISSN 1725-2237

[v]. Testicular cancer incidence statistics, Cancer research UK