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ISRN Toxicol. 2012 Oct 14;2012:232461. doi: 10.5402/2012/232461. Print 2012.

In vitro effects of herbicides and insecticides on human breast cells.

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Department of Biology, Millikin University, 1184 West Main Street, Decatur, IL 62522, USA.


Numerous studies have indicated that the pesticides and herbicides used in agricultural processes in the United States and Europe may have detrimental effects upon human health. Many of these compounds have been indicated as potential endocrine and reproductive disruptors, although the studies have examined supraphysiological levels well above the US EPA safe levels for drinking water and have often examined these effects in "model" cell lines such as Chinese hamster ovary cells. We have now examined the cytotoxicity of more environmentally relevant concentrations of four herbicides, acetochlor, atrazine, cyanazine, and simazine, and two insecticides, chlorpyrifos and resmethrin, in three human breast cell lines. Interestingly, cytotoxicity was not observed in the estrogen-dependent MCF-7 mammary epithelial carcinoma cells; rather increases in cell viability were seen for some of the compounds at select concentrations. These results vary greatly from what was observed in the estrogen independent MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and the non-cancerous MCF-10A breast cells. This gives insight into how different tumors may respond to pesticide exposure and allows us to make more accurate conclusions about the potential cytotoxicity or, at times, stimulatory actions of these pesticides.

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