Should I be Worried About PFAS?

For Survivors

What are PFAS?

Have you ever heard of these “forever chemicals?” PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) are synthetic chemicals classified as perfluoroalkyl substances, or more commonly known as PFAS. Growing research has led to much concern about the impact these chemicals might have on our health and the environment – I am here to educate you about the facts and put you at ease!

These forever chemicals (PFAS) have been around for a while – as in the 1940’s! Since they are durable and don’t really break down, they are great in products that are supposed to be resistant to oils, stains, water, and heat. They have been used in many common household products: 

  • Carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics 
  • Water resistant Clothing – rain jackets, umbrellas, tents 
  • Grease-resistant paper 
  • Personal care products
    • Shampoo 
    • Dental floss 
    • Nail polish 
    • Makeup 
  • Food packaging
  • Non-stick coatings on pans
  • Cleaning products 
  • Paints, varnishes, sealants 

The whole reason they are so great is the same reason why people are so worried about them. That same quality that makes it resistant to oil and water means that it doesn’t really break down in our environment. They can even stay in the human body for a very long time and pretty much everyone has small levels of PFAS in their blood. 

Animal Studies

Numerous animal studies have indicated that high levels of exposure to PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) can lead to liver and immune system damage, low birth weight, birth defects, and delayed development. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these studies deliberately administer much larger doses of PFAS than humans would ever encounter. Therefore, it’s not conclusive whether PFAS exposure has identical effects in humans. Animal studies, while informative, cannot directly translate to human health outcomes, and further research is needed to determine the potential impact of PFAS on human health.

PFAS and Cancer Risk

The evidence linking PFOA exposure to an increased risk of cancer is not definitive and is subject to several limitations:

  1. Testicular and Kidney Cancer: Some studies have suggested a possible association between PFAS exposure and an increased risk of testicular and kidney cancers. However, the evidence is not conclusive, and further research is needed to establish a definitive causal relationship.
  2. Prostate Cancer: There is limited and conflicting evidence regarding the association between exposure and prostate cancer risk. Some studies have reported positive associations, while others have not found significant links. More research is needed to clarify this relationship.
  3. Breast Cancer: Studies investigating the potential link between PFAS exposure and breast cancer risk have produced mixed results. Some research suggests a possible association, particularly with certain compounds like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). However, additional studies are needed to better understand this relationship.
  4. Other Cancers: Limited evidence also exists for potential associations between PFAS exposure and other types of cancer, such as bladder, liver, pancreatic, and thyroid cancers. However, the evidence is inconsistent and requires further investigation.

Factors to consider regarding how PFOA exposure:

  1. Dose and Duration: The relationship between PFOA exposure and cancer risk often depends on the dose and duration of exposure. Low levels of exposure may not necessarily lead to cancer development. Studies often focus on occupational exposure or high levels of environmental exposure.
  2. Individual Susceptibility: Not everyone exposed to PFOA will develop cancer. Genetic factors, lifestyle choices, and overall health status play crucial roles in determining individual susceptibility to carcinogens.
  3. Other Contributing Factors: Cancer development typically involves a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. PFOA exposure may be just one of several factors contributing to cancer risk. Smoking, diet, physical activity, and exposure to other environmental pollutants can also influence cancer development.
  4. Regulation and Risk Management: Regulatory agencies worldwide have been working to regulate and reduce PFOA exposure. Efforts include restricting its use in consumer products, implementing pollution prevention measures in industrial settings, and monitoring PFOA levels in the environment. These measures aim to minimize exposure and mitigate potential health risks.
  5. Uncertainty in Scientific Research: While some studies have suggested a potential link between PFOA exposure and cancer, the scientific evidence is not conclusive. Research in this area is ongoing, and further studies are needed to better understand the long-term health effects of PFOA exposure, including its carcinogenic potential.

Government Efforts to Reduce Exposure

Regulatory agencies and public health organizations continue to monitor the potential health effects of PFAS exposure and assess the need for risk management measures. Efforts to reduce human exposure, such as phasing out the use of certain PFAS compounds in consumer products and environmental remediation efforts, are ongoing. 

Although the EPA has not set a federal safety limit, they have created health advisories for the recommended limit for some PFAS in drinking water. This is largely based on health effects seen in animals. 

The health advisory provides information that the states can use to set their own safety limit. This means that different states have different regulations about how much PFAS they allow in their drinking water. According to the EPA, states will have to report to the public the amount of these chemicals by 2027. 

How to Reduce Exposure

  1. Find out if your drinking water has a PFAS level above the health advisory. If you drink from a well, have someone come out and test your well water regularly. 
  2. Follow fish advisories informing people of contaminated waterways. You can find a list of contaminated waterways using the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). 
  3. If you are concerned about specific household products and associated risk, reach out to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. 


Overall, while some evidence suggests a potential association between PFAS exposure and certain types of cancer, we need more research to establish definitive causal relationships and understand the underlying mechanisms. Remember, much of the data we have on PFAS is on animal studies. Individuals concerned about exposure should follow public health recommendations and take steps to minimize exposure, such as avoiding products containing PFAS and consuming a healthy, varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. While it may not be possible to completely eliminate PFAS exposure, incorporating these strategies can help reduce your overall exposure and support a healthier lifestyle.

You just finished your treatment, the appointments stopped… and now what? This is the part of cancer treatment that nobody talks about. And it can be HARD. But it doesn’t have to be. The Cancer Prevention Lifestyle: Self Paced Course eliminates the confusion by helping you to find the right foods to eat that support your health as you shift into a cancer prevention lifestyle.


  1. Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA), Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS), and Related Chemicals. American Cancer Society. Revised March 22, 2024. Accessed April 11, 2024.
  2. Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and Your Health. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Reviewed January 18, 2024. Accessed April 13, 2024.
  3. IARC Monographs evaluate the carcinogenicity of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). International Agency for Research on Cancer. Published December 1, 2023. Accessed April 11, 2024.
  4. Final PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Updated April 10, 2024. Accessed April 13, 2024.
  5. Meaningful and Achievable Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Risk. Environmental Protection Agency. April 10, 2024. Accessed April 13, 2024.

This blog is not intended as medical nutrition therapy, medical advice, or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation or recommendation from your medical professional.

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