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Federal Advisory Committee: Preventing Breast Cancer Is "Key to Reducing Burden" of Disease

Groundbreaking report represents a sea change in breast cancer research

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2013
Contact: Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, or Margie Kelly, 541-222-9699,

SAN FRANCISCO—A report released today—written by a federal advisory committee of leading breast cancer experts—finds that identifying and eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer presents the greatest opportunity to prevent the disease.

“The report is crystal clear: Federal research and programs focused on preventing breast cancer need as much attention as treatment and cure,” said Jeanne Rizzo, president and CEO of the Breast Cancer Fund and co-chair of the committee that released the report.

The report includes the largest to-date survey of peer-reviewed science on breast cancer and the environment, finding that environmental factors like toxic chemical exposure increase breast cancer risk, and identifies the gaps in research and policies. It calls for a national, comprehensive, cross-governmental breast cancer prevention strategy.

“This report demonstrates what the Breast Cancer Fund has been saying for years. We are all exposed to a cocktail of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors every day that puts us at greater risk for breast cancer, and we need to prioritize and invest in identifying and preventing exposures,” said Rizzo. “It may be the key to preventing many people from ever having to get the devastating diagnosis.”

In 2008 Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appointed Rizzo, along with chair Dr. Michele Forman from the University of Texas at Austin and fellow co-chair Dr. Michael Gould from the University of Wisconsin, to the congressionally mandated Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee. The group was tasked with informing, enabling and promoting breast cancer intervention programs.

The committee’s report concludes that preventing exposure to environmental risk factors is the most promising path to decrease incidence of the disease, and is the “key to reducing the burden” on individuals, families and society.

Some of the committee’s recommendations include:

  1. Develop a national breast cancer prevention strategy to prioritize and increase federal government investments in breast cancer prevention.
  2. Intensify the study of chemical and physical factors that potentially influence the risk of developing and likelihood of surviving breast cancer.
  3. Plan strategically across federal, state and nongovernmental organizations to accelerate the pace of scientific research on breast cancer and the environment and to foster innovation and collaborative science.

“There is mounting evidence that chemical and physical agents play a role in breast cancer, particularly when exposures are assessed carefully across the life span, from the prenatal period onward,” said Sheila Zahm, former deputy director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute. “The report calls for increased investment in transdisciplinary research, involving all stakeholders, to clarify the role of environmental agents so we can prevent breast cancer."

“This report is a call to action. Now is not a time for the government, researchers or health advocates to be timid,” said Rizzo. “A solution to reduce the unconscionable rates of breast cancer is within our grasp.”

Download the report at


The Breast Cancer Fund works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease. Read more at


  • Breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women in their lifetime.
  • Most breast cancers occur in people with no family history, so environmental factors must play a significant role in the causation of the disease.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of cancer death in women worldwide.
  • Black women experience the highest death rates from breast cancer despite lower incidence rates than white women.
  • Breast cancer incidence rates in Asia and Africa have increased dramatically in recent years.