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New Report Catalogues Chemical and Radiation Links to Breast Cancer

Scientists, health advocates call for national breast cancer prevention agenda

CONTACT:  Shannon Coughlin, Breast Cancer Fund, 415-336-2246,

San Francisco—A report released today by the Breast Cancer Fund presents a comprehensive summary of the scientific data on the environmental causes of breast cancer. The report catalogues the growing evidence linking breast cancer to, among other factors, synthetic hormones in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and meat; pesticides in food; solvents in household cleaning products; BPA in food containers; flame retardants in furniture; and radiation from medical treatments. The report also highlights impacts on the most vulnerable populations (including infants, pregnant women, African-American women and workers), and outlines the policy initiatives required to develop a national breast cancer prevention plan.

The report, entitled State of the Evidence: The Connection Between Breast Cancer and the Environment, is the sixth edition published by the Breast Cancer Fund. “With each new edition of the report, the growing scientific evidence compels us to act to prevent breast cancer,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N., president of the Breast Cancer Fund. “This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our message is clear: we must move beyond awareness to prevention.”

The report’s lead author, Janet Gray, Ph.D., professor at Vassar College, said that widely understood risk factors for breast cancer such as primary genetic mutations, reproductive history and lifestyle factors do not address a considerable portion of the risk for the disease. “A substantial body of scientific evidence indicates that exposures to common chemicals and radiation also contribute to the unacceptably high incidence of breast cancer,” Gray said. “This report focuses on these environmental issues.”

The report states that a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is 1 in 8—representing a dramatic increase since the 1930s, when the first reliable cancer incidence data were established. Between 1973 and 1998 alone, breast cancer incidence rates in the United States increased by more than 40 percent. Strikingly, the increasing incidence of breast cancer since the 1930s parallels the proliferation of synthetic chemicals. Today, approximately 85,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use in the United States, more than 90 percent of which have never been tested for their effects on human health.

This report comes just months after the President’s Cancer Panel’s report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, whose lead authors, Margaret Kripke, Ph.D., and LaSalle Leffall, Jr., M.D., found that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. The report leveled a hefty critique of failed regulation, undue industry influence, and inadequate research and funding. It also found that the government has been locked in a cancer-fighting paradigm that has failed to look at the complexity of cancer causation and, in so doing, has missed the opportunity to create a national campaign for cancer prevention.

“Our report is right in line with what the President’s Cancer Panel is saying,” said Janet Nudelman, co-author of the report and policy director at the Breast Cancer Fund. “The President and Congress have a historic opportunity to change the course of the war on cancer and protect the public from toxic chemicals. There are immediate implications for legislation moving through Congress, including efforts to restrict the toxic chemical BPA, to ensure cosmetics are safe and to reform the broken Toxic Substances Control Act.”

In addition to a comprehensive summary of the science and policy recommendations, the report also presents advice on what individuals can do to reduce their risk.

“At a time when virtually every American has been touched by breast cancer,” said Rizzo, “we need individual, corporate and government commitment to eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer. Action now means fewer of our children and grandchildren will face the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer. We simply can’t afford not to act.”

Download a PDF of the report and explore online content at


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The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to identify and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer.