(NaturalNews) Higher exposure to toxic chemicals may explain the difference in testicular cancer rates between Denmark and Finland, researchers from the University Department of Growth and Reproduction have found in a study on breast milk.
"Our findings reinforce the view that environmental exposure to [endocrine-disrupting chemicals] may explain some of the temporal and between-country differences in incidence of male reproductive disorders," said lead researcher Niels Skakkebaek.
Rates of testicular cancer, genital abnormalities, low semen quality, and other male reproductive disorders are four times higher in Denmark than in nearby Finland. These conditions have previously been linked to exposure to industrial chemicals that disrupt the hormonal (endocrine) system.
Endocrine disruptors have also been linked to birth defects, neurological problems, and increased rates of cancer and heart disease. The most dangerous chemicals are known as persistent organic pollutants, because they resist environmental degradation and accumulate in the environment.
Most of these chemicals bind to animal fat. As a consequence, animal-based foods tend to contain higher concentrations. So does human breast milk.
In the current study, researchers tested the breast milk of 68 women in Denmark and Finland for 121 different chemicals. They found significantly higher levels of pesticides, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the Danish breast milk.
The higher rates of testicular cancer and other reproductive disorders in Denmark may not be explained directly by contamination via breast milk. Breast milk contamination is thought to be a reliable marker of prenatal chemical exposure, which is likely to pose an even greater risk.
Skakkebaek stressed that women should not take the study as a reason to continue breast feeding, which has been shown to have "many beneficial effects for the child."
In addition to animal foods, people may be exposed to endocrine disruptors from pesticides, plastics, resins used to line food containers, and other chemicals used in manufacturing.