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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2014 Mar 12;21(2):T33-55. doi: 10.1530/ERC-13-0513. Print 2014 Apr.

Endocrine disruption of the epigenome: a breast cancer link.

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Cancer Drug Discovery, MIMR-PHI Institute of Medical Research, PO BOX 5152, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia Department of Environmental Health, Center for Environmental Genetics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.


The heritable component of breast cancer accounts for only a small proportion of total incidences. Environmental and lifestyle factors are therefore considered to among the major influencing components increasing breast cancer risk. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are ubiquitous in the environment. The estrogenic property of EDCs has thus shown many associations between ongoing exposures and the development of endocrine-related diseases, including breast cancer. The environment consists of a heterogenous population of EDCs and despite many identified modes of action, including that of altering the epigenome, drawing definitive correlations regarding breast cancer has been a point of much discussion. In this review, we describe in detail well-characterized EDCs and their actions in the environment, their ability to disrupt mammary gland formation in animal and human experimental models and their associations with exposure and breast cancer risk. We also highlight the susceptibility of early-life exposure to each EDC to mediate epigenetic alterations, and where possible describe how these epigenome changes influence breast cancer risk.


aromatase; breast cancer; endocrine disruptors; epigenetics; estrogen

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