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April 2008 Issue

Shuk-Mei Ho, PhD, is chair of UC's environmental health department.
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UC to Study Link Between BPA and Prostate Cancer

By Amanda Harper
Published April 2008

With questions lingering about
the estrogen-mimicking chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), UC’s Shuk-mei Ho, PhD, hopes to shed new light on the relationship between the chemical and prostate cancer.

Ho, chair of environmental health, and Gail Prins, PhD, a University of Chicago researcher, have received nearly $2.6 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to study the mechanism by which BPA exposure in the womb or in infancy may affect prostate cancer later in life.

The duo reported the first evidence of a direct link between chemical exposure while in the womb and prostate cancer development later in life in the June 2006 issue of the journal Cancer Research. 

The researchers found that animals exposed to low doses of the natural human estrogen estradiol or the environmental estrogen BPA during fetal development were more likely to develop an early form of prostate cancer in humans  than those who were not exposed. 

Their findings suggested that exposure to environmental and natural estrogens during fetal development could affect the way prostate genes behave, leading to higher rates of prostate disease during aging.

BPA is a chemical used in plastics that can leach out when heated. It is one of many man-made chemicals known as “endocrine disruptors,” which mimic the role of the body’s natural hormones.

Ho and Prins will now assess whether genes that are epigenetically regulated by estrogen exposures during fetal development play a direct role in prostate cancer development later in life.

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