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Breast Cancer

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether her Department has commissioned research to examine potential links between exposure to agricultural chemicals and breast cancer. (97826)

The Department’s independent committee on carcinogenicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment (COC) recently considered the potential association between certain environmental organochlorine insecticides and breast cancer. A statement was finalised in September 2004 and is available at After a full consideration of all the large amount of information COC concluded that there is no convincing evidence for an association with organochlorine insecticides. The committee was aware that none of the organochlorine insecticides included in this review are approved for use in pesticide formulations in the United Kingdom but persist in the environment and exposure of the population has occurred mainly via the diet.

It has been claimed that other environmental chemicals could have weak estrogenic activity which if added together could cause breast cancer. The World Health Organization international programme on chemical safety global assessment of endocrine disrupting chemicals, published in 2002, concluded that the additive effects of such chemicals would be very weak and the available data did not support a direct association. The assessment is available at: