Avoiding the Chemicals that Can Lead to Breast Cancer

The story of breast cancer—from diagnosis to treatment—gets a lot of attention in the press. In just the past few weeks, I’ve read a story about the challenge of diagnosing the earliest stage of breast cancer and a story about an expert recommendation that the drug Avastin no longer be used in the terminal stage of the disease.

Yet there is still one phase of the breast cancer experience that does not get enough attention: before it starts.

Where are the stories about how we can prevent this terrible illness?

Where are the stories alerting women to the numerous chemicals found in everyday products that may increase their risk of developing breast cancer?

This news deserves more coverage.

Many people assume that breast cancer is caused by an inherited gene, but genetic causes account for less than a quarter of all cases. While other risk factors have been identified—such as delaying childbirth—there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that exposure to toxic chemicals in our homes, offices, and personal care products can also increase risk.

I am a breast cancer survivor myself, and I believe strongly that if information about dangerous chemicals could prevent other women from suffering through this disease, than we must share it.

That is why I am proud of two initiatives NRDC is involved in. NRDC has launched the Breast Cancer and Chemicals Policy project together with the UC-Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.

The project is helping identify chemicals that might be linked to breast cancer. Right now, there are about 80,000 synthetic chemicals in use in America, but only 7 percent of them have been fully studied for the impacts on humans.

Our project will help prioritize testing for chemicals most likely to trigger the growth of mammary tumors. This emphasis on testing can have a big impact:  better screening is the first step toward better regulation.

While the project’s scientists are identifying possible carcinogens, NRDC is sharing information about chemicals that have already been linked to breast cancer.

These aren’t obscure toxins found at heavy manufacturing plants or military installations. They are ingredients in some of most common products of everyday life.

NRDC’s Take Out Toxics: Buying Guide tells you about the hazards in daily items and what you can buy to avoid them.

Until our government gets tougher on dangerous chemicals, this kind of information is one of our best weapons for keeping breast cancer in its proper place: out of our bodies altogether.