Very low dose exposure to BPA and BPS affect embryonic brain development in zebrafish

Low-dose exposure to bisphenol A and replacement bisphenol S induces precocious hypothalamic neurogenesis in embryonic zebrafish

Deborah Kurrasch, a researcher in the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, has shown that BPA and BPS cause alterations in brain development that can lead to hyperactivity in zebrafish. Image via @UCalgary

Bisphenol A, known as BPA, is a chemical produced in massive quantities around the world for use in consumer products, including household plastics. In response to public concerns, many manufacturers have replaced bisphenol A with a chemical called bisphenol S (BPS), which is often labelled as “BPA-free” and presumed to be safer.

In a new study, researchers in Deborah Kurrasch’s lab at the University of Calgary have provided evidence that BPA and BPS cause alterations in brain development leading to hyperactivity in zebrafish.

I was actually very surprised at our results. This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn’t think using a dose this low could have any effect,” says Kurrasch, PhD, a researcher in the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine and corresponding author on the paper.

For the study, Kurrasch worked with University of Calgary researcher Hamid Habibi, PhD, and Cassandra Kinch, a PhD student, to expose zebrafish embryos to concentrations of the chemicals at levels found in the Bow and Oldman rivers of southern Alberta. By doing this, exposure to BPA and BPS changed the timing when neurons were formed in the brains of the zebrafish.

Prenatal period a particularly sensitive stage

These findings are important because they support that the prenatal period is a particularly sensitive stage, and reveals previously unexplored avenues of research into how early exposure to chemicals may alter brain development,” says Kinch.

In the second trimester, brain cells become the specialized neurons that make up our brain. What we show is that the zebrafish exposed to BPA or BPS were getting twice as many neurons born too soon and about half as many neurons born later, so that will lead to problems in how the neurons connect and form circuits,” says Kurrasch, a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Department of Medical Genetics.

Change in behaviour detected

Researchers discovered the number of neurons generated in the developing zebrafish brains increased by 180 per cent compared with unexposed fish. They also learned that BPS increased the number of neurons by 240 per cent in similar experiments. The result was a change in behaviour, with the fish demonstrating greater hyperactivity later in life.

Another surprise finding was that zebrafish receptors targeted by BPA and BPS to mediate this early neuronal birth in zebrafish brains were androgen receptors. Assumptions based on numerous reports postulated that BPA and BPS modulate normal physiology by mimicking the endogenous sex steroid estrogen, and not testosterone.

Finding the mechanism linking low doses of BPA to adverse brain development and hyperactivity is almost like finding a smoking gun,” says Habibi, a professor of environmental toxicology and comparative endocrinology in the Faculty of Science.

A caution for pregnant women

Although further research is needed to explore that link and the potential effect on human brains developing in the womb, Kurrasch says the findings add weight to other studies suggesting pregnant women should try to limit their exposure to items containing bisphenols. The evidence also supports removing all bisphenols and structurally similar chemicals from consumer products, she says.

Zebrafish are a widely accepted biomedical model for understanding embryonic brain development. About 80 per cent of the genes found in people have a counterpart in zebrafish — and possess very similar developmental processes as humans.

Sources and more information

  • Zebrafish study shows bisphenols affect embryonic brain development, University of Calgary, January 13, 2015.
  • Researchers find BPA and BPS affect embryonic brain development in zebrafish, eurekalert, 12-JAN-2015.
  • Low-dose exposure to bisphenol A and replacement bisphenol S induces precocious hypothalamic neurogenesis in embryonic zebrafish, pnas, January 12, 2015.
  • BPA alternative disrupts normal brain-cell growth, is tied to hyperactivity, study says, washingtonpost, January 12, 2015.

Secret Scents infographic, the widespread impact of allergies

Tell Glade to stop keeping fragrance ingredients secret!

The allergens hiding on your scented products

secret-scents infographic
Tell Glade to stop keeping fragrance ingredients secret!

The widespread impact of allergies

Fragrance affects us all. For some, it can enhance a moment, invoke a memory, or even improve a mood. As consumers, we seek it out in all kinds of products we use in our everyday lives. And for many of us, there’s a positive sensory experience associated with fragrance. But unfortunately, this may not be without consequence. In addition to the potential health consequences of certain fragrance ingredients linked to cancer, interference with hormones, and reproductive harm, a significant portion of the population suffers from fragrance-related allergies. ”

… continue reading How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health on womensvoices. Download Womens Voices Secret Scents report and infographic.

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CervicalCancer and HPV slideshow presentation

Cervical Cancer is the 2nd most common cancer among South African women

The United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month.

CANSA places the focus on Cervical Cancer during the month of September.


NHS increases budget for cancer drugs fund but remove 25 meds from list

Some life-extending drugs to be denied to NHS patients in England as fund overspends

Cancer Drugs Fund: some life-extending drugs to be denied to NHS patients in England as fund overspends.

The NHS Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) yesterday (Monday) published the outcome of its review of drugs included in the Fund.

The budget for the CDF will grow from £200 million in 2013/14, to £280 million in 2014/15, and an estimated £340 million from April 2015. This represents a total increase of 70 per cent since August 2014.

The CDF review announced yesterday also will create projected savings of approximately £80 million through a combination of negotiated price reductions and improved clinical effectiveness. If action had not been taken to review the CDF drugs list, the Fund is projected to have grown to around £420 million next year, necessitating offsetting cuts in other aspects of cancer treatment such as radiotherapy, cancer diagnoses, cancer surgery, and other important NHS services for other patient groups.

A national panel – comprising oncologists, pharmacists and patient representatives – independently reviewed the drug indications* currently available through the CDF, plus new applications. They carried out a detailed assessment of the evidence, looking at clinical benefit, survival and quality of life, the toxicity and safety of the treatment, the level of unmet need and the median cost per patient. In cases where the high cost of a drug would lead to its exclusion from CDF, manufacturers were given an opportunity to reduce prices.

The result of the review is that 59 of the 84 most effective currently approved indications (clinical ‘uses’) of drugs will rollover into the CDF next year, creating headroom for new drug indications that will be funded for the first time. These are Panitumumab, a treatment for bowel cancer; Ibrutinib, a treatment for Mantle cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma; and Ibrutinib for use in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).

Following these changes, four important patient protections are in place:

  • Any patient currently receiving a drug through the CDF will continue to receive it, regardless of whether it remains in the CDF.
  • Drugs which are the only therapy for the cancer in question will remain available through the CDF.
  • If the CDF panel removes a drug for a particular indication, some patients may instead be able to receive it in another line of therapy or receive an alternative CDF approved drug.
  • Clinicians can apply for their patient to receive a drug not available through the CDF on an exceptional basis.
Professor Peter Clark, Chair of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) and a practising oncologist, said:

We have been through a robust, evidence-based process to ensure the drugs available offer the best clinical benefit, getting the most for patients from every pound.

“There were drugs that did not offer sufficient clinical benefit so we simply cannot go on funding those. There were others that offered some benefit but were costly and I am pleased that a number of pharmaceutical firms worked with us to make prices more affordable, saving millions of pounds that can now be reinvested in other treatments.

“These are difficult decisions, but if we don’t prioritise the drugs that offer the best value, many people could miss out on promising, more effective treatments that are in the pipeline.”

Further information

  • * An ‘indication’ is a medical term for a condition or set of symptoms for which a drug is provided – a drug may be used for several indications.
  • Most cancer drugs are routinely funded outside of the CDF. The CDF – set up in 2010 and currently due to run until March 2016 – provides a supplementary funding route for some other cancer drugs. NHS England is working with cancer charities, the pharmaceutical industry and NICE to create a sustainable model for the commissioning of chemotherapy.
  • Following public consultation, action is being taken to ensure a sustainable future for the CDF and to get maximum value for patients by ensuring every pound is spent on the most effective drugs available.
  • NHS England has set up an appeals process by which pharmaceutical companies can challenge the process of decision making.
  • A national taskforce will produce a refreshed five year cancer plan for the NHS, headed by Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.

Sources and more information

  • NHS increases budget for cancer drugs fund from £280 million in 2014/15 to an expected £340 million in 2015/16, NHS News, 12 January 2015.
    Outcome of consultation on proposed changes to Cancer Drug Fund Standard Operating Procedures, NHS News, 12 January 2015.
  • Cancer Drug Fund decision summaries, NHS News, 12 January 2015.
  • Cuts to cancer treatments announced, BBC News Healtn, 12 January 2015.
  • Cancer Drugs Fund: Life-extending drugs to be denied to NHS patients in England as fund overspends, The Independent, 12 January 2015.
  • 25 cancer drugs to be denied on NHS, The Telegraph, 12 January 2015.

Early Autism Diagnosis improves Outcomes, brief Screenings can miss autism symptoms

The importance of early autism diagnosis for children

Assistant professor in BYU’s Counseling Psychology & Special Education department and lead author of a new study in Pediatrics Terisa Gabrielsen discusses the importance of early autism diagnosis for children.
Video published on 11 Jan 2015 by BYU channel.

Story Highlights

  • Researchers studied pediatric exams where care providers performed autism observations for 15-33-month-old children.
  • Even the researchers missed referrals for 39 percent of the children with autism, based on the brief observation alone.
  • Parents are the experts for their children. Tools are available for parents to be educated, work with care providers and have an impact.
More information
  • Study in Pediatrics: Brief observations miss autism symptoms in young children,
    byu news, 15 Jan 2015.
  • Identifying Autism in a Brief Observation, pediatrics,
    (doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-1428), January 12, 2015. Full text PDF.
  • M-CHAT-R/F (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up), m-chat.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Signs and Symptoms, cdc.
  • Watch more research videos on our YouTube channel.

Womens HealthCare Confusion

Where exactly do I fit into this picture?

womens-health-confusion cartoon
Watch @DES_Journal diaporama and health comics album on Flickr. Cartoon by penroseonpolitics

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Email your photos to with a short description and title :-)

The epigenetics effects of air pollution

Breathing in diesel exhaust leads to changes “deep under the hood”, causing changes in methylation at about 2,800 different points on people’s DNA

Breathing-in-diesel-exhaust image
The booth used in the UBC study to expose people to diesel exhaust fumes.

Just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust fumes can lead to fundamental health-related changes in biology by switching some genes on, while switching others off, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health.

The study involved putting volunteers in a polycarbonate-enclosed booth — about the size of a standard bathroom — while breathing in diluted and aged exhaust fumes that are about equal to the air quality along a Beijing highway, or under certain conditions at busy ports, rail yards, mines and industrial sites.

The researchers examined how such exposure affected the chemical “coating” that attaches to many parts of a person’s DNA. That carbon-hydrogen coating, called methylation, can silence or dampen a gene, preventing it from producing a protein – sometimes to a person’s benefit, sometimes not. Methylation is one of several mechanisms for controlling gene expression, which is the focus of a rapidly growing field of study called epigenetics.

The study, published this month in Particle and Fibre Toxicology, found that diesel exhaust caused changes in methylation at about 2,800 different points on people’s DNA, affecting about 400 genes. In some places it led to more methylation; in more cases, it decreased methylation.

How these changes in gene expression translate to health is the next step for researchers. But this study shows how vulnerable our genetic machinery can be to air pollution, and that changes are taking place even if there are no obvious symptoms.

Usually when we look at the effects of air pollution, we measure things that are clinically obvious – air flow, blood pressure, heart rhythm,” said senior author Dr. Chris Carlsten, an associate professor in the Division of Respiratory Medicine. “But asthma, higher blood pressure or arrhythmia might just be the gradual accumulation of epigenetic changes. So we’ve revealed a window into how these long-term problems arise. We’re looking at changes ‘deep under the hood.’”

The fact that DNA methylation was affected after only two hours of exposure has positive implications, said Carlsten, the AstraZeneca Chair in Occupational and Environmental Lung Disease.

Any time you can show something happens that quickly, it means you can probably reverse it – either through a therapy, a change in environment, or even diet,” he said.

Carlsten’s team, having catalogued the changes along the entire human genome, is now sharing its data with scientists who are further exploring the function of specific genes.

Sources and more information
  • Breathing in diesel exhaust leads to changes “deep under the hood”,
    ubc news media release, January 7, 2015.
  • Short-term diesel exhaust inhalation in a controlled human crossover study is associated with changes in DNA methylation of circulating mononuclear cells in asthmatics, particle and fibre toxicology, 9 December 2014.

NHS launches new independent taskforce for earlier cancer diagnosis, better treatment

GPs could be bypassed by patients seeking hospital tests for cancer, as part of a five-year action plan by NHS England

cancer-test image
GPs could be bypassed by patients seeking hospital tests for cancer, as part of a five-year action plan by NHS England.

NHS Press release

NHS England today (Sunday 11 January 2015) announced a new independent taskforce to develop a five-year action plan for cancer services that will improve survival rates and save thousands of lives.

It also launched a major new programme to test innovative ways of diagnosing cancer more quickly at more than 60 sites across the country, and committed a further £15m over three years to evaluate and treat patients with a type of modern radiotherapy.

More than one in three people in the UK develop cancer and half will now live for at least ten years – forty years ago average survival was just one year. But for some cancers patients are being diagnosed late so that some survival rates are below the European average.

The taskforce has been asked to deliver the vision set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View, which calls for action on three fronts: better prevention; swifter diagnosis; and better treatment, care and aftercare for all those diagnosed with cancer.

Chaired by Cancer Research UK Chief Executive Harpal Kumar, the taskforce will work across the entire health system. It will include cancer specialist doctors and clinicians, patients groups and charity leaders, including Macmillan Cancer Support, Public Health England, local councils, and the Royal College of GPs.

It will consider prevention, first contact with services, diagnosis, treatment, support for those living with and beyond cancer, and end-of-life care, as well as how all these services will need to develop and innovate in future. It will assess the opportunity for improved cancer care by March 2015 and produce a new five-year cancer strategy by the summer.

Alongside the taskforce, NHS England announced:

  • the launch of a major early-diagnosis programme,working jointly with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, testing seven new approaches to identifying cancer more quickly. The aim is to evaluate a number of initiatives across more than 60 sites around the country to collect evidence on approaches that could be implemented from 2016/17.Initiatives will include: offering patients the option to self-refer for diagnostic tests; lowering referral thresholds for GPs; and multi-disciplinary diagnostic centres where patients can have several tests in the same place on the same day.
  • the extension of NHS England’s Commissioning through Evaluation programme to innovative radiotherapy treatment, stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) costing in the region of £5m each year. This new commitment comes following a campaign led by former England rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio, aiming to make SABR more widely available to cancer patients in England. NHS England’s evaluation programme will enable the number of cancer patients eligible to access SABR treatment to rise significantly, by 750 new patients a year. The programme will widen the number of cancers being treated to include the treatment of oligometastatic disease (cancer that has spread to another part of the body), primary liver tumours, spinal tumours, the re-irradiation of cancers in the pelvis and other selected indications.
    This investment is in addition to NHS England’s pledge to fund up to £6m over the next five years to cover the NHS treatment costs of SABR clinical trials led by Cancer Research UK.
  • an improvement to the monitoring of cancer survival at a local level. NHS England will include a one-year cancer survival indicator in the assurance system used to ensure Clinical Commissioning Groups are delivering. This puts cancer survival at the front and centre for every single CCG across the country.
Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK and head of the NHS cancer taskforce, said:

The Five-Year-Forward View has set out a compelling vision for the delivery of health services. We now need to turn the vision into a reality for the thousands of patients diagnosed with cancer every week. We also know that many more people will be diagnosed with cancer in the years ahead. Cancer Research UK is projecting an increase of a third in the number of cases over the next 15 years. So the time is right to set new ambitions and to take a fresh look at how we will meet this need. I am honoured to have been asked to lead this cross-system group which will address this.”

Lawrence Dallaglio, campaigner for improved cancer services, said:

This project is a significant step forward for patient access to advanced radiotherapy in our country. It will double the number of cancer patients being treated with SABR, more than double the number of cancers treated and, just as importantly, lead the way for patients to be treated within their own regions. There remains a good way to go but this agreement shows that when we all work together great things can be achieved.”

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said:

Cancer survival rates in England are at an all-time high, but too many patients are still being diagnosed late – up to one in four only when they present in A&E. So it’s time for a fresh look at how we can do even better – with more focus on prevention, earlier diagnosis and modern radiotherapy and other services so that over the next five years we can save at least 8000 more lives a year.”

Sources and more information
  • NHS launches new bid to beat cancer and save thousands of lives,
    NHS News, 11 January 2015.
  • New tests for cancer dispense with GPs, The Telegraph, 11 Jan 2015.
  • NHS plan to achieve earlier cancer diagnosis and save lives,
    BBC News Health, 11 January 2015.

Justice for DES Daughters

One reason to celebrate, says Silent Spring Institute

Silent Spring Institute turned 20 and came up with 20 #reasonstocelebrate to highlight milestones and achievements toward creating a less toxic future in the fight against breast cancer.

In 2012, 53 DES Daughters won settlements from 14 drug companies, because the women got breast cancer after being exposed to the anti-miscarriage drug. DES daughters remind us that it can take 60 years to get strong human evidence that a chemical causes breast cancer, so if we have biological evidence that a chemical is harmful, we should take steps NOW to protect health.

Justice in this case is one of our #ReasonsToCelebrate. ”
Sources: Silent Spring Institute and Twitter.

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Cervical Cancer: an overview of the NCI fact sheet on Pap and HPV testing

Pap and HPV Testing fact sheet, National Cancer Institute

Pap-and-HPV-Testing image
Screening for cervical cancer is in the news. Below is an overview of @theNCI fact sheet on Pap and HPV testing.

Key Points

  • Cervical cancer screening, which includes the Pap test and HPV testing, is an essential part of a woman’s routine health care because it can detect cancer or abnormalities that may lead to cancer of the cervix.
  • Current guidelines recommend that women should have a Pap test every 3 years beginning at age 21. These guidelines further recommend that women ages 30 to 65 should have HPV and Pap cotesting every 5 years or a Pap test alone every 3 years. Women with certain risk factors may need to have more frequent screening or to continue screening beyond age 65.
  • Women who have received the HPV vaccine still need regular cervical screening.


  • What causes cervical cancer?
  • What is cervical cancer screening?
  • How is cervical cancer screening done?
  • When should a woman begin cervical cancer screening, and how often should she be screened?
  • What are the benefits of Pap and HPV cotesting?
  • Can HPV testing be used alone for cervical cancer screening?
  • How are the results of cervical cancer screening tests reported?
  • What follow-up tests are done if cervical cancer screening results are abnormal?
  • How are cervical abnormalities treated?
  • Do women who have been vaccinated against HPV still need to be screened for cervical cancer?
  • What are the limitations of cervical cancer screening?

Read Pap and HPV Testing fact sheet, National Cancer Institute.

More information
  • Cervical Cancer Risk for 330,000 Women Undergoing Concurrent HPV Testing and Cervical Cytology in Routine Clinical Practice at a Large Managed Care Organization, PMC3272857, Feb 6, 2012.
  • Screening for cervical cancer: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement, annals 1183214, 19 June 2012 .
  • American Cancer Society, American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and American Society for Clinical Pathology screening guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer, PMC3801360, Mar 14, 2012.
  • Human papillomavirus and cervical cancer, PubMed 17826171, 2007 Sep 8.
  • Human papillomavirus testing in the prevention of cervical cancer, PMC3046952, Mar 2, 2011.
  • Natural history of human papillomavirus infections, cytologic and histologic abnormalities, and cancer, PubMed 19061814, 2008 Dec.
  • Reassurance Against Future Risk of Precancer and Cancer Conferred by a Negative Human Papillomavirus Test, JNCI 106/8/dju153, May 2, 2014.