Dispatch: OEHHA and BPA, Troy on Vaccines, Aspirin and Breast Cancer, Statins and Diabetes

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OEHHA Questions BPA
California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is requesting information on BPA so that they can decide if it should be added to the state’s Prop 65 list of toxic substances.

“BPA was already considered for the Prop 65 list by an expert panel from California’s Development and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee, and they determined that there was not enough evidence to list it,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “What this means is that anti-BPA activists are getting yet another chance to convince the powers that be in California to list BPA as a reproductive or carcinogenic toxicant, which would require products containing BPA to be labeled as such. This could have a serious impact on the market for BPA-containing products in California, and since California’s market is huge, the ripple effect across the nation could be substantial since it is virtually impossible to have vast numbers of products labeled for just one state. American consumers will be the ones to pay the price, ultimately.

“We have said it before and we’ll keep saying it: there is no evidence that BPA traces in consumer products pose a risk of adverse health effects in human beings of any age, including fetuses and children. Animal experiments that provided arguments for this group of activists posing as researchers are flawed, and are not based on commonly accepted standards of scientific research. BPA traces are found in many commonly used products, and the fact that BPA has been used in canned foods – including infant formula – for decades and has prevented almost all cases of food-borne illness from canned foods in that time is just one piece of evidence as to what its loss would entail.”

Patriots Get Vaccinated
Tevi Troy, the former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, penned an article for the Daily Caller in which he argues that anti-vaccine hysteria could be a threat to national security: “[H]omeland security officials must also recognize the serious impact of vaccine skepticism on domestic preparedness against biological threats, be they natural or man-made. Our No. 1 defense against many biological threats, including pandemic influenza, smallpox, and anthrax is vaccinations, and it is essential that the public be ready and willing to secure vaccinations in case of outbreaks of these deadly diseases.”

“This ties into the panic about vaccines and autism and why many Americans are worried about having their kids and even themselves vaccinated,” says ACSH’s Jeff Stier.

For more information, see ACSH’s publications on adult immunizations and terrorism preparedness.

Aspirin and Breast Cancer Recurrence
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that aspirin may help prevent recurrence in breast cancer survivors who have completed treatment.

“This is very interesting and important information,” says Dr. Ross, “but it is not by any means proof that aspirin reduces the risk of breast cancer recurrence; it’s an uncontrolled, observational study. No interventions were performed. The way to prove that aspirin prevents recurrence would be to do a controlled, randomized, double-blind study in which a group of breast cancer survivors were given aspirin while a similar group did not receive aspirin, and the results in the two groups were compared.

“Women who have survived breast cancer – especially those who had chemo – should not be advised at this time to take aspirin because it can increase the risk of gastro-intestinal bleeding. It’s best to discuss this with your doctor. My own personal opinion is that women who have survived breast cancer and have no history of gastro-intestinal bleeding or propensity for bleeding problems may indeed consider taking aspirin, but should keep in mind that there are also other approved medications proven to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, including tamoxifen, raloxifene (Evista), and aromatase inhibitors. So with this panoply of choices, the best advice is to discuss these options with your doctor.”

Statins and Diabetes
A meta-analysis published in The Lancet by researchers at the University of Glasgow's Cardiovascular Research Center concludes that statin drugs taken to lower cholesterol may slightly increase the risk of developing diabetes.

“The risk they found is much smaller than the likely benefits to those taking statin drugs if they are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Ross. “There are several caveats here. First, this is a meta-analysis, not a controlled study by any means, but the study authors analyzed 13 large, controlled trials of statins published between 1994 and 2009, comprising over 91,000 patients, so these results are not to be ignored. Other studies on the same subject have found increased risk of diabetes for patients on statins, and others have not, so this is far from an established link.

“This does remind us, however, that every drug has benefits and risks, and some risks we don’t know about until many years after the drug is put on the market. In the case of statins, they’ve been widely used for 20 years. Many people have taken them and many lives have been saved with relatively mild side effects, the most common of which is merely aching muscles. In rare cases, some patients develop a severe muscle disease called rhabdomyolysis, but this very uncommon. On the other hand, the lifesaving benefits are known, and while this study should not dissuade anyone from taking statins if they have increased risk of cardiovascular disease, it may provide food for thought for people taking statins without any risk factors, those who are just trying to protect themselves from future events. Not that that’s necessarily a bad idea, just something you should take into account and discuss with your doctor.”

Curtis Porter is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH.org).