In the 1940s, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer was one in 22. Today, it is one in 7. Many people diagnosed with breast cancer do not fit into a high-risk profile based on the known breast cancer risk factors. This means other factors—perhaps environmental—are at work. Mounting scientific evidence from laboratory and limited human studies suggests that many of the 85,000 chemicals registered for use in the US may contribute to breast cancer risk by causing breast tumors, hastening their growth, or leaving mammary glands more vulnerable to carcinogens. Exposure to these chemicals is widespread since they are commonly found in our air, water, soil, food, homes, schools, workplaces and bodies. Indigenous Arctic communities experience greater chemical exposure to some of these chemicals because many industrial and commercial chemicals are long lasting and persistent in the atmosphere, drifting north on wind and water currents from where they are applied in Southern latitudes.
CHE-Alaska provided a discussion of the chemicals associated with breast cancer and discovered how learning more can help guide prevention strategies. Participants found out ways to reduce your exposure and opportunities for prevention.
Sarah Dunagan, MA, is a Staff Scientist at the Silent Spring Institute with expertise in environmental science. Her current work focuses on ethical considerations involved in reporting results to participants in biomonitoring and personal exposure studies, and GIS analyses for a study of hormonally active pollutants in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, groundwater and drinking water. She also directs the development of the Massachusetts Health and Environment Information System (MassHEIS), an online mapping tool that allows users to explore health and environment data for their communities.