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Estrogen, UV Added to US Govt. List of Carcinogens

By Todd Zwillich

Wed Dec 11,11:05 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - A new US government report has for the first time identified estrogen-containing drugs and ultraviolet light as cancer-causing agents, federal agencies announced Wednesday.

The report also lists wood dust, common in carpentry shops and saw mills, as a known cause of lung cancer. Fifteen other compounds, including industrial chemicals, dyes and one compound found in foods cooked at high temperatures, were also added to the list as probable human carcinogens.

The report, published every 2 years by the National Toxicology Program, contains little new information about the agents it lists. Instead, it is a collection of known experimental data that the government uses to keep a running catalog of cancer-causing agents.

Federal agencies and Congress use the list to guide regulations and legislation governing industrial and environmental health hazards.

Wednesday's additions expanded the list to 228 compounds either "known" or "reasonably anticipated" to cause cancer in humans. It does not make conclusions about the magnitude of cancer risk posed by any of the compounds or what types of people may be most vulnerable.

Steroidal estrogens were added to the list for the first time because of research data linking the compounds to an increased risk of cancer of the endometrium, or lining of the uterus. They have also been associated with a rise in breast cancer risk.

Steroidal estrogens are used in hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women, and physicians are supposed to weigh the risk of cancer against the benefits of the drugs.

Estrogen replacement therapy is also known to reduce the chances of ovarian cancer in women who take it.

Broad-spectrum ultraviolet light, found in natural sunlight and in light used in tanning beds, was also classified as a known carcinogen because of a strong connection with cancers of the skin, lips and eyes, according to the report.

The report also upgraded beryllium compounds, which are commonly used in ceramics shops, nuclear reactors and jewelry making, from a probable to a known carcinogen.

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