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What Environmental Factors Cause Breast Cancer

Are Antiperspirants Linked To Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Environmental Risk Factors

A study published in early 2004 gave us new insight on the possible link between a whole host of body-care products, like antiperspirants, and breast cancer. The study, conducted by Dr. Philippa Darbre, found parabens a chemical preservative commonly used in cosmetics and body-care products in samples of breast cancer tumors. Although the study was quite small, looking at only 20 tumors, it tells us for the first time that parabens can in fact be absorbed through the skin from frequently applied products such as antiperspirants and creams, and can persist and accumulate in breast tissue in their original form.

Parabens are one of a number of chemicals that were exposed to in day-to-day products they mimic estrogen, a hormone closely linked to the development of breast cancer. This study highlights the need for more research on the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals and our need to take precautionary action to eliminate our exposure to these potentially dangerous chemicals.

Parabens dont belong in our body-care products or in our bodies. BCA has called on Avon, Revlon, Estée Lauder, and Mary Kay cosmetic companies with pink-ribbon breast cancer campaigns to remove parabens and phthalates from their products. We urge these companies to make good on their claim to be leaders in the fight against breast cancer. After all, corporate conscience belongs in a companys products, not just in its marketing.

Are Birth Control Pills Linked To Breast Cancer

According to the Womens CARE study, published in June 2002, using birth control pills doesnt appear to increase a womans risk of getting breast cancer. The scope of the study didnt include women under 35 or risks associated with the growing use of oral contraceptives by women over 40. Other studies have reached the same conclusion but have found that women with a strong family history of breast cancer are at increased risk if they started using oral contraceptives before 1975. Before 1975 the pills contained a much higher dose of estrogen than they do now. A recent Canadian study also found that women with the BRCA1 gene mutation showed an increased risk of early onset of breast cancer if they started taking the pills before 1975, before age 30, or for more than five years. Remember that genetic mutations account for less than 10 percent of all breast cancer cases.

What Can You Do About It Now


Environmental Risk Factors in Breast CancerMai Brooks MD and James Watson MD

Much has been written about pesticides and pollutants as being major contributors to cancers today. According to the National Toxicology Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 52 chemicals known to contribute to cancers of all kinds in humans and 176 chemicals reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. Lung and mammary cancers are the most common types of cancers that are found in animal based studies of potential carcinogens. Despite this data, most experts believe that more relevant environmental risks involve diet, lifestyle, and factors related to a prolonged exposure to estrogens. However, a brief discussion of some proven and unproven chemicals associated with breast cancer risk is worthwhile.

Smoking: Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York examined the association between cigarette smoking and incidence of breast cancer in a cohort of women who had smoked for up to 40 years. The women were subsequently followed for an average of 10.6 years. Their risk of breast cancer was 60% higher than that of women who had never smoked. Among those who smoked 20 cigarettes or more a day for 40 years, the increased risk rose to an 83% increase.1

4Pukkala E, Auvinen A, Wahlberg G. Incidence of cancer among Finnish airline cabin attendants, 1967-92. British Medical Journal, volume 311, pages 649-652, 1995.

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Environmental And Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • Lack of Physical Activity: A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Poor Diet: A diet high in saturated fat and lacking fruits and vegetables can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Being Overweight or Obese: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for breast cancer. Your risk is increased if you have already gone through menopause.
  • Drinking Alcohol: Frequent consumption of alcohol can increase your risk for breast cancer. The more alcohol you consume, the greater the risk.
  • Radiation to the Chest: Having radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30 can increase your risk for breast cancer.
  • Combined Hormone Replacement Therapy : Taking combined hormone replacement therapy, as prescribed for menopause, can increase your risk for breast cancer and increases the risk that the cancer will be detected at a more advanced stage.

Prevention Of Breast Cancer

Proportion of breast cancer caused by high

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all. Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer. If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.

Several risk factors of breast cancer, like genetic markers, cant be slowed or stopped. However, some practices can help decrease the risk of getting breast cancer. These include:

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What Type Of Breast Cancer Is Most Likely To Recur

Among patients who were recurrence-free when they stopped endocrine therapy after five years, the highest risk of recurrence was for those with originally large tumors and cancer that had spread to four or more lymph nodes. These women had a 40 percent risk of a distant cancer recurrence over the next 15 years.

Why Is Cancer So Common Nowadays

The main reason cancer risk overall is rising is because of our increasing lifespan. And the researchers behind these new statistics reckon that about two-thirds of the increase is due to the fact were living longer. The rest, they think, is caused by changes in cancer rates across different age groups.

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Chemicals In The Environment

A great deal of research has been reported and more is being done to understand possible environmental influences on breast cancer risk.

Chemicals in the environment that have estrogen-like properties are of special interest. For example, substances found in some plastics, certain cosmetics and personal care products, pesticides, and PCBs seem to have such properties. In theory, these could affect breast cancer risk.

At this time research does not show a clear link between breast cancer risk and exposure to these substances, but it is hard to study such effects in humans. More studies are needed in this area.

Having Children And Breastfeeding

Are Environmental Factors Part Of A Woman’s Breast Cancer Risk?

Having children seems to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. The more children you have, the lower the risk. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ovarian cancer.

This reduction in risk may be because while you are pregnant or breastfeeding you’re not ovulating . The fewer times you ovulate in your lifetime the lower the risk of ovarian cancer.

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Symptoms Statistics Tests And Treatment

Male breast cancer is a relatively rare cancer, but it is one that doctors often diagnose in the later stages. Knowing how to recognize the symptoms can help a person get early treatment.

Male breast cancer accounts for fewer than 1% of all cancer diagnoses worldwide.

A males lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is about 1 in 833, according to the American Cancer Society .

The outlook for male breast cancer is excellent if diagnosis occurs in its early stages. However, early diagnosis is not always possible.

One factor in diagnosis delay is a lack of awareness. Although many females know how to look out for changes that could indicate breast cancer, there is less awareness among males, which means that they may be less likely to seek help in the early stages.

Breast cancer can also affect males differently, as they have less breast tissue than females. This can make it easier to detect small lumps, but it also means that the cancer has less room to grow within the breast. As a result, it may spread more quickly to nearby tissues.

For these and other reasons, around 40% of males with breast cancer receive a diagnosis in stage 3 or 4, when the condition has already spread to other parts of the body. As a result, overall survival rates are lower for males than they are for females.

Learn more about how to recognize male breast cancer and what to do if changes occur here.

Some possible symptoms of male breast cancer include:

They may also suggest the following tests:

Income Education And Breast Cancer Risk: How Are They Related

Factors including age, family history of breast or ovarian cancer, and ethnicity all contribute to the risk of breast cancer, but other environmental, lifestyle, and hormonal influences play a role in determining who develops breast cancer. Recently, public health research has focused on socioeconomic factors, like income and education, and their impact on chronic diseases like breast cancer. Scientists have found associations between the risk of breast cancer and socioeconomic status.

Specifically, higher incomes and higher levels of education have been found to correlate with an increased risk of breast cancer. While income and education themselves do not cause breast cancer, they may be associated with other factors that increase risk. Some of these factors include drinking alcohol, having fewer children, having children at a later age, and using hormone therapy after menopause.

Studies have also found that income and education levels may be associated with an earlier stage of cancer at diagnosis and better chances of survival.

Its important to note that associations between income, education, and breast cancer risk do not prove causation. Environmental and socioeconomic factors only contribute to the possibility of getting breast cancer. Someones actual risk of getting breast cancer is determined by a complex combination of variables.

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Income Education And Breast Cancer Stage And Survival

Researchers have also found relationships between income and education with the stage of cancer and the chances of survival.

Early detection and diagnosis are important because tumors can grow larger and spread to other parts of the body over time. This can result in invasive breast cancer that is more difficult to treat. Education and income levels may influence early detection and contribute to different chances of survival.

Studies have found that higher income and education were associated with an earlier stage of cancer at diagnosis and better chances of survival. A Swedish study found that women who graduated from university had higher survival rates after a breast cancer diagnosis compared to women who completed less than nine years of education.

Other studies have found associations with lower levels of income and education and poorer chances of survival, plus an increased risk of being diagnosed at a later stage. Low socioeconomic status has been associated with an increased risk of aggressive, premenopausal breast cancers as well.

What all of this research means is that while people who have higher income and education levels may be more likely to develop breast cancer, theyre also more likely to have more favorable outcomes. On the other hand, people with lower income and education levels may be less likely to develop breast cancer. If they do develop breast cancer, however, it is more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage with poorer outcomes.

Talk To Others Who Understand


If you have breast cancer, talking to people who understand what youre going through can be a great source of emotional support. MyBCTeam is the social network for people with breast cancer and their loved ones. On MyBCTeam, more than 54,300 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with breast cancer.

Are you curious about the factors that influence breast cancer? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

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What Are Environmental Risk Factors And How Can I Avoid Them

Tobacco smoke at a concert. Pollution from the factory around the corner. Radiation from a routine X-ray. When it comes to environmental factors that raise the risk of cancer, it may seem like avoiding exposure is as impossible as avoiding the air you breathe. In reality, though, you have more control than you think. Experts say you can lower your cancer risk simply by making strategic lifestyle changes or taking conscious measures to reduce your exposure. Environmental risk factors account for at least two-thirds of all cancer cases in the United States, so knowing more about what to look out for, and what to avoid, may go a long way in protecting your health.

Cancer develops when changes, or mutations, in a cells DNA cause the cell to grow out of control. Sometimes, the mutations are caused by chemicals and other toxic substances in the environmentclassified as carcinogens because of their cancer-causing potential. While such chemicals are toxic, they dont always cause cancer. Your risk for developing the disease depends on several factorsincluding how long and how often youre exposed, your genetic makeup, your diet and lifestyle, your overall health, and your age and gender.

What Is The Relationship Between Fertility Drugs And Breast Cancer

The question of a connection between fertility drugs and breast cancer is a very complicated one. To begin with, most women taking fertility drugs are over 30 and havent had a child yet. These factors together already increase their risk of breast cancer.

One widely used fertility drug, Clomid, works by causing a woman to hyperovulate, to pump out more of the appropriate hormones for stimulating egg development. Data now available suggest that Clomid increases the risk of ovarian cancer, since more frequent ovulation increases your chances of getting ovarian cancer.

However, the connection isnt clear for breast cancer. In theory, these drugs and the hormones they contain, might add a promoter effect stimulating the development of precancerous cells that are present. A lot of evidence shows that the amount of estrogen in a womans body increases breast cancer risk by promoting breast cancer growth.

According to a couple of large recent studies, overall history of infertility drug use was not associated with increased breast cancer risk, but we need to do more research. We dont know the relationship of these drugs to breast cancer, but its likely that they have some effect, since DES a drug given to women from 1938 to 1971 to prevent miscarriage and other hormones do. There are many questions that still need to be answered, and it may be many years until we understand the effects of these drugs on breast cancer risk.

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Is Breast Cancer Caused By Environmental Factors

Breast tissue begins to develop prior to birth, and continues to mature during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Recent studies suggest that environmental exposures, such as certain chemicals, diet, and social factors, during these critical stages of development, may increase risk of breast cancer later in life.

Breast Cancer Screening And Survival

Breast Cancer Risk Factors and Prevention

Factors related to health care like having health insurance, access to care, and access to breast cancer screenings might play a role in the relationship between income, education, and breast cancer risk and outcomes. Income and education may make someone more likely to get regular breast cancer screenings. Regular mammograms can lead to earlier detection and higher survival rates if cancer is found.

Breast cancer tumors found during regular screenings tend to be smaller, less advanced, and more treatable. If someone is more likely to get mammograms, then they may be more likely to have their cancer diagnosed at an earlier stage and have a lower chance of cancer mortality.

Having health insurance may also play a role in someones cancer treatment options and chances of survival. Breast cancer statistics from the American Cancer Society show that people with health insurance are more likely to get mammograms. If higher income and education may predict having health insurance, these factors would indirectly impact the likelihood of getting mammograms.

Health insurance status, access to health care, and mammography only play a role in the diagnosis of breast cancer they do not definitively predict someones risk of breast cancer and chances of survival. However, its important to understand these aspects and how they are influenced by education and income to better understand and lower breast cancer incidence.

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Regular Screening And Checkups

It is essential to check yourself for any abnormalities in your body regularly. Especially for women above 50, regular breast examinations and screening procedures are critical.

Different people have different symptoms of breast cancer. Some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all. Keep in mind that these symptoms can happen with other conditions that are not cancer. If you have any signs or symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away.

There are many ways to screen yourself for any abnormalities in your breast. Some of these include self-examinations and mammograms. Furthermore, it is recommended that you discuss the best screening options for you with your physician.

Does Cancer Ever Really Go Away

Cancer isnt always a one-time event. Cancer can be closely watched and treated, but sometimes it never completely goes away. It can be a chronic illness, much like diabetes or heart disease. This is often the case with certain cancer types, such as ovarian cancer, chronic leukemias, and some lymphomas.

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