Thursday, October 28, 2010

BPA - is it a threat to health?

A recent article in Dr Gupta's CNN blog, carries the frightening headline "BPA may reduce sperm count". It goes on to detail a study in China of workers in plastics factories who had lower sperm counts (and high blood levels of BPA). The problem with this study is those workers are exposed to the chemical in a way that we will never be, from drinking from plastic bottles.

And yet, one wonders - how much chemical does leech into the substance in the plastic bottle? Do all plastic bottles leech BPA into your drink or food?

BPA is short for bisphenol-A, a chemical used in clear plastic. It has lately been loosely linked with numerous problems including obesity, cancer, brain damage and early puberty.

It is true that girls are exhibiting earlier puberty these days but that also could be attributed to other factors - pharmaceutical estrogen which is widely used for birth control and HRT, has been found in drinking water (it is thought to be excreted in the urine), and pollution in the atmosphere has also been suspected as a factor. So how much of the earlier development can be linked to BPA? No one knows.

As for obesity, here the links are very vague and much more likely factors can be named such as labor saving devices (our grandparents burned a whooping 800 calories more daily than we do, just in executing housework etc), and foods which are delicious but extremely high calorie while not being particularly filling. Lending fuel to those reasons is the lack of obesity found in environments which do not have easy access to fancy and fast foods and do not have labor saving devices like cars and automatic washers (for example, the PIMAs of Mexico who still live the same way they lived 1000 years ago).

Cancer? Well, here again, there are many factors have been strongly linked to it, including heredity, use of tobacco and alcohol, pollution in the air, synthetic estrogen and even some medications like those medications taken to lower cholesterol (statins).

So again, we are left with questions about BPA.

Even more concerning, is the fact that there is no way around plastic bottles - everything comes in it, from milk to water. So if plastic is really leeching into our food and causing health problems, where would we turn?

It seems in our modern society, rather than curing all the ills, we are often doing trade-offs like the vaccines which have been linked to the high incidence of autoimmune disorder in exchange for infectious disease. And I also wonder why some chemicals which happen to be popular or hot sellers are never mentioned in our many health warnings. Chemicals like aspartame which has been linked to brain cancer in 100 worldwide studies and is actually banned in some countries, or the preservative in vaccines which is a form of mercury, known to be extremely toxic, even in trace amounts. Or coffee, which contains caffeine, a stimulant which can, over a lifetime especially in larger quantities, disarray the dopamine in the brain, possibly leading to the development of Parkinson's disease (REF: PROZAC BACKLASH by J. Glenmullen, MD, NY,2005).

I would tend to think, if BPA is a player, it's a minor player in causing disease. But I guess it's more of a "stay tuned". Studies like the Chinese study of workers in plastics factories are not really telling us anything about the general public and BPA.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Study finds high cancer risk with low dose birth control/hormone replacement

Low Dose Birth Control Hormones are given for birth control and also for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). And the cancer risk with pharmaceutical estrogen first popped up in the 1930's when rats given the drug, all came down with breast cancer, both males and females. In the 1960's this study was repeated with the same results, but funded by Planned Parenthood which saw a gold mine in selling a medication for contraception, research pushed on and in the mid 1960's, the "birth control pill" became available, touted as safe and effective.

Epidemiological studies which are notoriously inaccurate but because of the large numbers involved, convincing to the public (and medical providers also) suggested that giving menopausal women estrogen (and later on, low dose birth control including estrogen and progestin) would relieve their hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause and even protect them from heart attacks.

But even after these studies, nursing magazines referred to the "estrogen - breast cancer risk". The Merck Manual also listed these medications as significantly raising the risk for heart attack, stroke and thrombosis (40% higher risk in those taking the hormones). But the general public never heard about these risks and the large epidemiological studies which suggested that this medication was "heart protective" were convincing.

In the year, 2000, 9 million women were on premarin for menopause.

Meanwhile, the incidence of breast cancer went from a low percentage in the 1950's to occurring in 1 in 8 women by 2000 (80,000 women die yearly in the USA, from breast cancer).

In the early 2000's, 2 NIH double blind studies had to be stopped mid-term because those on estrogen alone or low dose birth control - estrogen and progestin, were getting too many heart attacks, strokes and cancer. And pharmaceutical estrogen was put on the FDA list of cancer causing chemicals in 2005.

Recently a new study, an 11 year point analysis of the Women's Initiative Study Data, suggested that low dose birth control given for Menopause and Hormone Replacement significantly raises the risk of cancer.

The women taking both estrogen and progestin were found to have a much greater chance of dying from lung cancer or breast cancer (for example, women on HRT had a 70 percent greater chance of dying of lung cancer than those who never took the hormones).

The study was reported on in the AMA's Journal. Rowan Chlebowski, of the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, who led the analysis,told the press:

"Women taking estrogen plus progestin are at greater risk from dying from the two leading causes of cancer death in women."

In 2002, there were 110 million prescriptions filed for low dose birth control. By 2005 after both NIH studies had to be halted, prescriptions "plummeted" to 40 million. And the incidence of breast cancer also dropped somewhat.

However, today, millions of women still take the hormones as birth control and hormone replacement therapy. In my acquaintance, I've seen a 17 year old have a stroke (she was on hormones for birth control - it paralyzed her partially) and recently, a woman in her 50's with no other risk factors, had a major stroke paralyzing her totally on one side. This woman was likely on hormone replacement therapy.

It is hoped that with the new analysis, the public will finally consider not taking these hormones.

When my husband and I got married in 1966, the "pill" was a new thing. Everyone asked me enthusiastically if I was planning to take the pill. "No," I told them, "That's a system which is too sensitive and I have a hunch that dumping amounts of pharmaceutical hormones into my body would not be a healthy thing!" I never did take birth control medication - but had no idea how unhealthy and risky those hormones would turn out to be.

NOTE: Natural Progesterone Cream (like "Progesta-Care") is a nice alternative for menopause which cuts the symptoms but does not put the woman at risk. See "WHAT YOUR DOCTOR MIGHT NOT TELL YOU ABOUT MENOPAUSE" by Dr John Lee, MD. (No, I do not sell this but this is what I used to get me smoothly through menopause and also, to avoid a hysterectomy.)