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Avoidance of flame retardants may protect from thyroid cancer

Harold Mandel's picture
Endocrine system

Researchers say that exposure to flame retardants may be associated with thyroid cancer.


There have been growing concerns over the years about possible associations between chemicals which we are exposed to in our everyday lives and the development of cancer. Sharing of information about such possible associations is needed to help people avoid being exposed to potentially carcinogenic chemicals.

High exposure to chemicals which are used to decrease flammability of items is associated with papillary thyroid cancer

Nicholas School of Environment at Duke University has reported there may be an association between exposure to flame retardants and thyroid cancer. According to researchers at Duke high exposure to chemicals which are used to decrease the flammability of carpets, furniture, electronics and other household items seems to be associated with papillary thyroid cancer.

Papillary thyroid cancer has been increasing at fast rate

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The Duke researchers discovered there was a significant association between high levels of some flame retardants in dust in the home and being a patient suffering from papillary thyroid cancer. In the United States this type of cancer has been increasing at the fastest rate of any type of cancer.
Co-senior author Julie Ann Sosa, M.D., who is chief of endocrine surgery at the Duke Cancer Institute, says for the past two years there has been an average increase of 7 percent in the incidence of papillary thyroid cancer. During this same time period there has been an increase in exposure to flame retardant chemicals.

The flame retardants associated with an increase in papillary thyroid cancer are known as endocrine disruptors according to Dr Sosa. These chemical specifically affect the function of the thyroid. In fact some of the flame retardants have a similar chemical structure with thyroid hormones.

This may explain what has been termed as an "epidemic" in the incidence of papillary thyroid cancer

Co-senior author Heather M. Stapleton, Ph.D., who is an associate professor of Environmental Chemistry and Exposure Science at the Nicholas School of the Environment, says the study results have suggested that there may be an association between papillary thyroid cancer and exposure to several flame retardants. This may explain what has been termed as an "epidemic" in the incidence of this serious disease.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports even baby products may have chemical fire retardants. EWG suggests that until the time comes when we eliminate toxic fire retardants from consumer products, efforts should be made to avoid contact with these chemicals as much as possible.

Unfortunately until toxic fire retardants are completely eliminated from consumer products and safer solutions are used to lower the risk of flammability, American families, particularly children, will continue to be dangerously exposed. Efforts to inform the public about this risk should be intensified.