| Do Environmental Chemicals
Cause Breast Cancer?
A report issued in March 2008 by the Breast Cancer Fund, believes
that the upswing in breast cancersince World War II is linked
to the growing number of synthetic chemicals in use as well as
to increased radiation exposure. The report estimates that more
than 80,000 chemicals are in use with another 1,000 or so being
introduced every year.
Although the group recognizes the recently reported drop in breast
cancer incidence, attributed mainly to declining use of hormone
replacement therapy, it maintains that data linking radiation
and environmental chemicals to breast
cancer are "compelling." And it suggests that a
critical factor in breast cancer risk may be exposure to endocrine-disrupting
chemicals during childhood, adolescence and in the womb.
Rates of other diseases have also been rising with increased
exposure to many of the chemicals discussed in the report, including
birth defects and developmental disorders, childhood cancers,
Those 400-plus studies cited in the report testify to the fact
that researchers suspect a connection and have been looking for
a link. (Obesity, a recognized risk factor for breast cancer,
also has risen markedly in the same time period.)
We may never know for sure exactly what causes breast cancer.
Dr. Weil discussed the report with Ruby Senie, Ph.D., a breast
cancer epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York. Given
the huge number of synthetic chemicals to which we are likely
exposed "in combinations too numerous to imagine," Dr.
Senie says, "There is no way that any epidemiologic study
can adequately assess breast cancer risk due to any specific potential
The chemicals won't go away any time soon, so it's up to you
to protect your health by eating foods high in antioxidants. Select
organic varieties when it comes to foods that tend to have high
pesticide residues. (For guidance, check the Web site of the Environmental
Working Group at www.ewg.org.)
Take a good quality antioxidant multivitamin-mineral every day
as insurance against dietary gaps. The long-term solution may
be more and better regulation of the chemicals in our environment,
but that will come only if we, as citizens, demand it.