Exposure in the womb to a plastics chemical found in a host of products including water bottles, soup cans and paper receipts can increase the risk of prostate cancer, research has suggested.
Scientists in the United States studying the growth of human prostate cells in mice found that feeding the animals the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) almost tripled their risk of cancer or pre-cancerous changes.
The doses of BPA given to the mice were relatively the same as those commonly seen in pregnant women.
BPA is widely used to soften plastics, but there have been serious concerns about its ability to mimic the hormone oestrogen. The chemical is now banned from babies' feeding bottles in the UK and the rest of the European Union.
Professor Gail Prins, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, who led the new research, said BPA was "very hard to avoid". But she said: "Our research provides the first direct evidence that exposure to BPA during development increases the risk for prostate cancer in human prostate tissue."