Does Roundup cause breast cancer?

There are data gaps within our pesticides assessment agencies, the World Health Organisation, US Environmental Protection Agency which trickle through to our own governments that result in very simply, bad and unsafe pesticides assessments.

Every animal study for glyphosate (the pesticide commonly known as Roundup) that the USA EPA and the WHO use to apply the ‘non-carcinogenic to humans’ rating, is sponsored and paid for by an agrichemical company.

 These are the core studies for toxicity which include acute toxicity (shorter term poisonings), and longer term toxicity - reproductive and development toxicity and carcinogenicity studies.

As a result, in this democratic world where we live, no critical study in these vital toxicity assessment areas, that form the parameters used to approve our daily consumption, our RfDs / ADI's, are ever supplied by an independent organisation like, say a university or public interest group.


This agencies are riddled with conflicts of interest.

The very studies that provide the parameters that end up being residue levels, within toxicity assessment, are only ever supplied by the very organisations that require the toxicity assessment to be declared safe.  In the case of glyphosate, the studies for proving non-carcinogenicity are only ever provided by Syngenta, Monsanto and Cheminova.  How can that not be astounding?


Furthermore, no study ever uses the stronger, more effective complete formulation of Roundup, (only the weaker active chemical glyphosate is used).   And I believe this ‘policy’ has profound ramifications for our health.


A recent French university study sent shockwaves through the world when the first (and only) ever long term study of Roundup (the complete formula) on rats at levels we are permitted to be exposed to today. This study by Seralini et al produced tumours on mammary glands of rats. [1] It wasn't meant to be a cancer study, but then cancer does pop up in surprising ways.


This Seralini study should have powerful implications for health policy.

But it is ignored by most governments. To the detriment of women.  I can’t put it any other way.  And the studies our governments and assessment agencies refer to? At this stage every long term study of glyphosate that is held with the EPA, WHO or EU are private corporate studies kept secret under corporate confidentiality agreements.  


Therefore Seralini's long term study showing the ugly photos of mammary gland tumours in rats is staggeringly, the only publicly available, independently prepared long term study of Roundup, ever in the world. 


I find it interesting, or dismaying that when breast cancer support organisations list potential causes of breast cancer, pesticides are rarely included in the mix of possible suspects. Pesticides are designed to kill, after all, and they are to varying degrees, toxins.  And the higher proportions of toxins in our bodies come largely from the food we ingest.  I don’t think that is an outlandish claim.

I believe these cancer organisations should be looking at all these independent studies and lobbying our failing agencies. There shouldn't be international silence.


And that confronting, independent study of Roundup got me thinking -  is there a reason breasts and Roundup never seem to make the same page? 


There is not a great deal of research on glyphosate, or Roundup and the mammary glands.  There is a big gaping hole in the USA research and within the studies held with the EPA and WHO.  For some reason the word ‘mammary gland’ rarely appears in the small portion we are permitted to see of their unpublished (private) research papers held with these organisations. And if you can write an article about the independent science of Roundup better than me, that non-science people can understand (like me), I invite you to, because this is not easy.  So the following information is a meagre attempt to make complex stuff, understandable. I welcome comment and help from people not connected with the pesticides industry.


And I believe there are enough families affected by breast cancer, which will want to try to understand this, tricky as it is. 


What the world is starting to understand, and only through independent (as in non-corporate) studies, is that mammary tumours are mostly estrogen dependent, and Roundup disrupts the balance of sex hormones. The sex hormones, also known as sex steroids, include the androgen testosterone and the estrogens estradiol.  Attempting to clarify as best I can: estrogens are the primary female sex hormones. They originate as cholesterol and become the hormone androstenedione. This stuff is like a pathway that works to become testosterone and then the estrogens estrone and estradiol.  The vital enzyme aromatase is critical in making it all work together. 


 Estradiol is the main estrogen during reproductive years. It also helps with developing breasts and body shape during puberty.  Too much estrogen however can activate oncogenes which can encourage cancers like breast and uterine cancers.  It appears that cancers can grow when the estradiol interacts, or binds with hormone receptors called estrogen receptors (or ERE’s Estrogen Response Elements). These together are called ‘hormone receptor complexes’.  They then bind to specific DNA sequences, potentially causing damage to DNA and hence cell division and DNA replications. Then special cells (eurokaryotic) go into damage control and try to repair the cells. [2] The cells change and you get cell growth. Cancer.     


As Wikipedia notes more elegantly than I: Estrogen receptors are a group of proteins found inside cells. They are receptors that are activated by the hormone estrogen.  Estrogen receptors are over-expressed in around 70% of breast cancer cases.


Some of you may note that aromatase is used in new drugs as an inhibitor to treat breast cancer, these drugs stop aromatase from changing other hormones into estrogen.  So they prevent/reduce the extra estrogen that pretty much acts as food for breast cancers.
Here are some studies that are starting to illustrate just how glyphosate formulations, commonly known as Roundup, may be affecting us:


In 2005 glyphosate was found to disrupt aromatase activity. This French study also noted: Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient. [3]   A Brazil study looking at sperm found Roundup made the sperm abnormal and lowered number in 2007. Too much estrogen can lower sperm count.  Of course, scientists have known since 1995 that glyphosate lowered sperm count and damages sperm.  I still don’t know how that study didn’t make the 2002 WHO Toxicity Evaluations… of course it was public! [4]  In 2014 Seralini again studied the full formulation at levels found in water after agricultural spraying. Roundup was found to change gene expression in sperm cells, which could alter the balance of the sex hormones androgen and estrogen.' [5]


And the same year, another French study found Roundup disrupted the synthesising of hormones. The study authors concluded Roundup was an aromatase disruptor at non-toxic doses.  And I quote:  In all instances, Roundup is more efficient than its active ingredient, glyphosate, suggesting a synergistic effect provoked by the adjuvants present in Roundup.  [6]


In 2009, again in France, glyphosate was found to have a disrupting effect on the ERE’s [7]. Remember, how aromatase is critical in the process of synthesising, or making testosterone and estrogen; how the estradiol binds with the EREs, which then bind to the DNA which then leads us to cancer?  It’s all connected and the scientists are trying to link everything up. To understand. 


A very shy US study (because I don’t think you are meant to study glyphosate in the USA) reported that glyphosate disrupted the estrogen-regulated genes relating to tumor formation and tumor growth in hormone dependent human breast cancer MCF-7 cells. [8]


And more recently, a study ignited the internet because it showed how the glyphosate affected the human hormone dependent breast cancer T47D cells.   This 2013 study from Thailand found that glyphosate at low and environmentally concentrations, possesses estrogenic activity.  The study authors believe the estrogenic activity was mediated through the estrogen response element (EREs).  [9]   


These non-industry scientists are starting to demonstrate that glyphosate is very likely a xenoestrogen, or xenohormone, that it can induce the ERE in a way that is similar to the human estradiol.  Simply put, we don’t want xenohormones in our bodies.  Xenoestrogens are pollutants that mimic real estrogen.  Xenoestrogens include DDT, Atrazine, dioxin, PCBs, and BPA.  


Is this how glyphosate can cause breast cancer? 
a.    Glyphosate acts to mimic estrogen.
b.    Too much estrogen can cause early puberty, lower sperm levels
c.    Too much estrogen can cause cancer
d.    Roundup exerts xenoestrogenic effects that promote the growth and spread of breast cancer cells.
e.    At very, very, very low levels.


Pesticides can cause tumours which can lead to breast cancer.  And the non-industry science is starting to join the dots.


These independent studies showing danger aren’t held with the EPA and WHO  – because industry doesn’t want them there. It’s as simple as that. 


It is a rather confronting idea that we are exposed to these xenoestrogens over our entire lifetime.  Pregnant mothers expose their childen to toxins in-utero, a now commonly accepted fact.   “Prenatal exposure to natural and synthetic estrogens is associated with increases in breast and vaginal tumour in humans as well as uterine tumours in animals……….. implications of new findings suggest that causes of endocrine-related cancers or susceptibility to cancer may be a result of developmental exposures rather than exposures existing at or near the time of tumour detection.”[10]  For example, when researchers at the EPA…” dosed laboratory animals with the pesticide atrazine or other EDCs during certain weeks of pregnancy, the offspring never developed fully mature mammary glands, leaving the daughters more vulnerable throughout life to carcinogenesis. [11]


However there is little or no funding for this type of research.  If you look on the sites we all know, the sites that help us raise money for breast cancer research, you may understand something.  The money we raise through the walks and the charity events are only for finding a cure.  It is rare to find on these sites articles about toxicity, and cancer prevention. Sites that raise money for breast cancer rarely, if at all, commit to researching toxins that go in our bodies that contribute to cancer.  I don’t know about you, but I find this chilling.  


Have a look on the most recent EPA approval of glyphosate and search for the word ‘estrogen’.   Or even the WHO paper, you’ll find one reference (page 148). Not these studies only use the weaker active chemical glyphosate, not the stronger formulation that is sprayed on our food [11]. These studies influence world policy.


How do we respond to this, when there are so many public domain studies, not used by the WHO or US EPA that show that the full formulation is genotoxic?


Do we just say, ‘Gee.  Never mind.’?  

I’m not talking about a little used product, something we may rarely be exposed to. Roundup is commonly found on our food, including our wheat.


Then there is the adjuvant factor. Adjuvants are included in the Roundup formulation to make it work more effectively.  A study has recently isolated a formulation ingredient, POE-15 which is actively toxic to humans. This has been quietly taken out of the mix, but what has replaced it? The new ingredient doesn’t have to be listed as an ingredient on product labels [12].  The study authors of course, insist that the full formulation of Roundup must be investigated in long term toxicity trials.  Because stuff like this is in the final mix on our food.


Just who are our assessment agencies protecting?
Just to finish off, here is a list of disorders and disease related to xenohormone exposure :
1.    Increase in reproductive-site cancers (breast, uterine, & ovarian)
2.    Precocious puberty
3.    Decreased fertility in both male and females
4.    Estrogen dominance
5.    Increased incidence of prostate cancers
6.    Polycystic ovarian syndrome
7.    Obesity
8.    Thyroid Disruption
9.    Endometriosis, adenomyosis


I would conclude that corporate financed scientists would declare that Roundup, or glyphosate is not a xenohormone.  I understand that the EPA, WHO and European Commission would declare that there is not sufficient evidence to categorise Roundup as a xenohormone.  Particularly when every study held with the EPA, WHO and Europe for glyphosate reassessment is only of the active substance in the Roundup formulation, not the stronger formulation itself.  


I would conclude that public domain scientists acting in the public’s interest are reaching consensus that Roundup is a xenohormone.


What would you conclude?
What would a public sector endocrinologists, oncologists or fertility experts say?
It’s an interesting conversation.

Help piecing this together more accurately is welcome.


References:
[1] Gilles-Eric Séralini, Emilie Clair, Robin Mesnage, Steeve Gress, Nicolas Defarge, Manuela Malatesta, Didier Hennequin, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois.  Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize Environmental Sciences Europe. 201426:14. Published June 2014

DOI: 10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5

©  Séralini et al.; licensee Springer 2014

[2] Thomas, Christoforos; Strom A., Lindberg K., Gustafsson J. (22). "Estrogen receptor beta decreases survival of p53-defective cancer cells after DNA damage by impairing G2/M checkpoint signaling". Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 127 (2): 417–427.doi:10.1007/s10549-010-1011-z. PMID 20623183
[3] Richard, S., Moslemi, S., Sipahutar, H., Benachour, N., Séralini, G-E. 2005. Differential effects of glyphosate and Roundup on human placental cells and aromatase. Environmental Health Perspectives 113: 716–20.
[4] Vera Lúcia de Liz Oliveira Cavalli, Daiane Cattani, Carla Elise Heinz Rieg, Paula Pierozan, Leila Zanatta, Eduardo Benedetti Parisotto, Danilo Wilhelm Filho, Fátima Regina Mena Barreto Silva, Regina Pessoa-Pureur, Ariane Zamoner. Roundup Disrupted Male Reproductive Functions By Triggering Calcium-Mediated Cell Death In Rat Testis And Sertoli Cells. Free Radic Biol Med. 2013 Jun 29. Epub 2013 Jun 29. PMID: 23820267
Yousef, M.; et al, “Toxic effects of carbofuran and glyphosate on semen characteristics in rabbits”, Journal of Environmental Science Health, B30, 4, 1995, 513-534
[5]  An acute exposure to glyphosate-based herbicide alters aromatase levels in testis and sperm nuclear quality.  Estelle Cassault-Meyer, Steeve Gress, Gilles-Éric Séralini, Isabelle Galeraud-Denis.  Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology.  Volume 38, Issue 1, July 2014, pp. 131–140
[6] Benachour, N., Sipahutar, H., Moslemi, S., Gasnier, C., Travert, C., Séralini, G-E. 2007.  Time- and dose-dependent effects of roundup on human embryonic and placental cells. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 53, 126–33. 
[7] Gasnier, C., Dumont, C., Benachour, N., Clair, E., Chagnon, M.C., Seralini, G.E., 2009. 499 Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell 500 lines. Toxicology 262, 184 -191.
[8] The expression of estrogen-regulated genes relating to tumor formation and tumor growth in hormone dependent human breast cancer MCF-7 cells were reported to be disrupted Hokanson, R., Fudge, R., Chowdhary, R., Busbee, D., 2007. Alteration of estrogen-regulated gene expression in human cells induced by the agricultural and horticultural herbicide glyphosate. Hum. Exp. Toxicol. 26, 747–752.  
[9] Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Thongprakaisang S, Thiantanawat A, Rangkadilok N, Suriyo T, Satayavivad J. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Sep;59:129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057. Epub 2013 Jun 10. Environmental Toxicology Program, Chulabhorn Graduate Institute, Laksi, Bangkok 10210, Thailand.  
[10]  Cancer and Developmental Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors.  Linda S. Birnbaum and Suzanne E. Fenton.   Experimental Toxicology and Reproductive Toxicology Divisions, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory,   Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA. 
[11] Silent Spring Institute.   EPA: http://www.epa.gov/teach/chem_summ/Atrazine_summary.pdf  Raynor JL., et al 2004; Rayner, JL., et al 2005.
[12]  Petit F; Le Goff P; Cravedi J-P; Valotaire Y; Pakdel F. 1997. Two complementary bioassays for screening the estrogenic potency of xenobiotics: Recombinant yeast for trout estrogen receptor and trout hepatocyte cultures. J. Mol. Endocrinol. 19(3): 321-335. [GlyArch1]  [12] Mesnage R., Bernay B., Séralini G-E. (2013, in press). Ethoxylated adjuvants of glyphosate-based herbicides are active principles of human cell toxicity. Toxicology 


National Children's Study". Environ. Health Perspect. 113 (8): 1100 7.  doi:10.1289/ehp.7615. PMC 1280355.  PMID 16079085