New Study Tracks Environmental Factors Tied to Breast Cancer

A comprehensive review of scientific research on environmental factors that may increase breast cancer risk, published May 14 in the online version of the scientific journal Cancer, identifies 216 chemicals that cause breast tumor in animals and says human beings are exposed to many of them in the form of air pollutants, food contaminants, or in consumer products such as cosmetics.

The study will be published in print as a supplement to the June 15 edition of Cancer, the Susan G. Komen foundation reported today. The review was commissioned by Komen for the Cure and conducted by the Silent Spring Institute (www.silentspring.org), a non-profit research organization dedicated to studying the environment's effect on women's health, with an emphasis on breast cancer. Researchers from Harvard University, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and the University of Southern California also participated. The researchers created a searchable database featuring detailed information on the carcinogens, and it is accessible free of charge at www.komen.org/environment.

Komen said the database reveals that 73 of the 216 compounds that cause breast tumors in animals have been present in consumer products or as contaminants in food; 35 are air pollutants; 25 have been associated with occupational exposures affecting more than 5,000 women per year; and 29 are produced in the United States in large amounts, often exceeding 1 million pounds per year. "Komen is eager to see quality science yield answers that will eventually lead us to our ultimate goal of knowing how to prevent breast cancer. Commissioning this study is a step toward that goal because it helps to determine what is known and what is not known about the possible link between certain environmental factors and the incidence of breast cancer," said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of Komen for the Cure. "While it is disturbing to learn that there are so many chemicals that may be linked to breast cancer, there is also a great opportunity to save thousands of lives by identifying those links, limiting exposure and finding safer alternatives. It is critical that we integrate this information into policies that govern chemical exposures," said Julia G. Brody, Ph.D., executive director of the Silent Spring Institute.

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