Is breast cancer in your future? Puberty is a time in a girl’s life considered highly sensitive to stimulation by the hormone estrogen and a critical window during which estrogen exposure could greatly influence the risk of breast cancer later in life.

An early onset of puberty also has been consistently shown in studies to increase the risk of breast cancer. A new study has shown that estrogen-like substances produced by fungi may indicate if you’re likely to contract breast cancer. A study recently found detectable levels of these fungal compounds, known as mycoestrogens, in urine samples donated by participating girls. The findings suggest that the presence of these mycoestrogens may delay height growth and the onset of breast development in young girls, which help determine whether they will eventually come down with breast cancer.

Mycoestrogens are produced by fungi that are present in grains through contamination. They are also present in such foods as meat, eggs and dairy through contaminated animal feed or deliberate introduction of some growth hormones into livestock for the purpose of improved meat production. When researchers evaluated food sources for these mycoestrogens, they also found that popcorn intakes were strong predictors of detectable levels in urine (perhaps because of the butter substitutes found in the movie and microwave versions?)

Epidemiologist Elisa Bandera says, "Because mycoestrogens are widely distributed in the food supply, it is critical that we have a better understanding of their levels, their food sources and their effects on the development of young girls, which ultimately has important implications for their future breast cancer risk."

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