Do Flame Retardants, In Fact, Cause Cancer?

Flame retardants have become a significant component of many household products. You can find them used in various applications around the home from linens to sports and outdoor equipment to furniture to cooking materials.

Flame retardants are intended, of course, to keep us safe from the risk of fire and combustion, particularly in regards to easily-burned materials like cloth.  Unfortunately, new data suggests that while flame retardants may be effective at saving you from burns, they might actually cause you to develop cancer.

Early findings from the study have been reported at the Endocrine Societies 99th annual meeting—the ENDO 2017—in Orlando, FL.  The researchers intimate that some flame retardants may, in fact, be associated with a higher risk for papillary thyroid cancer. This is the most common type of thyroid cancer.

According to Julie Ann Sosa, MD, of Duke University Medical Center, this is the fisrt time we have been able to see this type of signal. However, she warns, this should only be regarded as a preliminary study.  More research is needed to better understand the mechanisms involved. Of course, more study will also more thoroughly validate this initial discovery.

Still, the results are significant.  The endocrine surgeon and surgical oncologist also reminds that papillary thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing cancer within not only the United States but many other countries as well.

At an ENDO press briefing, she confided: “There is a pandemic of thyroid cancer around the world. For too long, we’ve ascribed this to entirely to overdiagnosis, so we are restricting screening,” adding that studies like this one point towards a new understanding of underlying and causative factors in cancer development. “As a clinician, it’s thinking about what role screening plays, but also taking a more detailed fastidious history and physical examination to try to better tease out what our patients do in all phases of their life, instead of potentially asking a historical set of questions that are no longer contemporary.”

Researcher Lindsey Trevino, PhD, also presented her own findings regarding early life exposure to BPA and its pending risk of fatty-liver disease. She says she hopes this study helps to increase physician awareness for exterior factors. In terms of fatty liver, for example, she comments that it is not just a matter of a poor diet or a lack of exercise.  Indeed, she confides: “now more and more studies are showing that it’s these environmental exposures that also play a big role. It’s about getting the word out and being aware, and then we can go from there to do some more studies.”

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