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Impact of endocrine disruptor hexachlorobenzene on the mammary gland and breast cancer: The story thus far

Miret, Noelia V., Pontillo, Carolina A., Zárate, Lorena V., Kleiman de Pisarev, Diana, Cocca, Claudia, Randi, Andrea S.
Environmental research 2019 v.173 pp. 330-341
adolescence, angiogenesis, animal models, bioaccumulation, breast neoplasms, carcinogenesis, carcinogens, cell movement, cell proliferation, childhood, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, epidermal growth factor receptors, epithelial cells, estrogens, hexachlorobenzene, humans, insulin-like growth factor I receptor, mammary development, mammary glands, mechanism of action, metastasis, morphogenesis, neoplasm cells, pregnancy, risk factors, tissues, transforming growth factor beta 1, uterus
Breast cancer incidence is increasing globally and exposure to endocrine disruptors has gained importance as a potential risk factor. Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) was once used as a fungicide and, despite being banned, considerable amounts are still released into the environment. HCB acts as an endocrine disruptor in thyroid, uterus and mammary gland and was classified as possibly carcinogenic to human. This review provides a thorough analysis of results obtained in the last 15 years of research and evaluates data from assays in mammary gland and breast cancer in diverse animal models. We discuss the effects of environmentally relevant HCB concentrations on the normal mammary gland and different stages of carcinogenesis, and attempt to elucidate its mechanisms of action at molecular level. HCB weakly binds to the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), activating both membrane (c-Src) and nuclear pathways. Through c-Src stimulation, AhR signaling interacts with other membrane receptors including estrogen receptor-α, insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor, epidermal growth factor receptor and transforming growth factor beta 1 receptors. In this way, several pathways involved in mammary morphogenesis and breast cancer development are modified, inducing tumor progression. HCB thus stimulates epithelial cell proliferation, preneoplastic lesions and alterations in mammary gland development as well as neoplastic cell migration and invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis in breast cancer. In conclusion, our findings support the hypothesis that the presence and bioaccumulation of HCB in high-fat tissues and during highly sensitive time windows such as pregnancy, childhood and adolescence make exposure a risk factor for breast tumor development.