Amazing perspective on the influence of environmental factors on foetuses still in the womb –
Scientists hope to prove whether common environmental chemicals, such as those used to make plastics, are to blame for rising testicular cancer rates.
Experts suspect that exposure while in the womb might explain why the rate of this cancer has doubled in 35 years.
The Edinburgh team told Human Reproduction such a study was only now possible because they had made a model to study the disease in development.
They will use mice harbouring human cells to test the theory.
Testicular cancer occurs in young men, but doctors have known for some years that the abnormal changes that lead to testicular cancer happen in the first few months that the foetus is growing.
But because these changes occur during early pregnancy, when there is no means of studying the foetal testes, doctors do not know how and why these changes occur.
Researchers are fairly certain there must be an environmental cause because the rate of the cancer has increased so rapidly.
According to Professor Richard Sharpe, of the Medical Research Council’s Human Reproductive Sciences Unit, one theory is that the changes are caused by pregnant women being exposed to environmental chemicals such as phthalates, which are used in many different household items, including plastic furniture and packaging.