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Perfluorocarbons May Disrupt Hormones, Menopause


Women who are exposed to perfluorocarbons (PFCs) may experience a disruption in their hormones, and the chemicals can affect onset of menopause as well, according to a new study from West Virginia University School of Medicine. Perfluorocarbons are found in various common products and in the environment.

A common pollutant can affect menopause

Perfluorocarbons are colorless, odorless man-made chemicals that are considered greenhouses gases that contribute to global warming. They are used mainly in semiconductor manufacturing and as refrigerants (e.g., refrigerators, freezers), as well as in certain cosmetics because they reportedly have an anti-aging effect.

Derivatives of PFCs include perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), both of which are persistent in the environment and have been detected in blood samples around the world. PFOA has been identified in carpet cleaning liquids, microwave popcorn bags, water, food, and house dust.

An investigative team from the University evaluated data from 25,957 women aged 18 to 65 years who were part of the C8 Health Project, a study that was conducted due to PFC contamination of drinking water from six water districts in two states. The survey was designed by an independent entity, as it was part of a class action suit. A total of 69,030 individuals were involved in the C8 Health Project.

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Levels of PFC and serum estradiol were noted, as was the onset of menopause. The researchers made adjustments for age, smoking and alcohol habits, body mass index, and exercise, and excluded women who had had a hysterectomy.

After all the adjustments, the team found the odds of having experienced menopause were significantly greater in women with the highest levels compared with the lowest levels of the PFC derivatives, PFOA and PFOS, in the perimenopausal and menopausal age groups. Specifically, there was a significant association between PFOS and estradiol in both groups of women, but not between PFOA and estradiol.

In a another study that evaluated the children and adolescents involved in the C8 Health Project, investigators found increased levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in young people exposed to PFOA and PFOS.

In the menopause study, the authors concluded their data indicated perfluorocarbons are associated with hormone disruption and can have an impact on menopause. Further research is necessary to identify the mechanisms involved.

Environmental Protection Agency
Frisbee SJ et al. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine 2010 Sep; 164(9): 860-69
Knox SS et al. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2011 Mar 16