By: Sonya Lunder
Excerpt: "During Breast Cancer Awareness Month we reach out to friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, celebrate remissions and comfort those who have lost loved ones. But we should also consider why the U.S. has one of the world’s highest rates of breast cancer, and what we can do to prevent more women from developing the disease.
Women are told to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by avoiding tobacco and some hormone-based medicines, eating a healthy diet, exercising and limiting alcohol consumption. Still, thousands of women who adhere to these recommendations are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Why?
Once disputed as a contributor to breast cancer, environmental pollutants are now known to play a significant role. Chemicals in our food, water and homes can alter DNA and gene expression to change the way breast cells develop, making tissues susceptible to cancer. Of particular concern are exposures during pregnancy and childhood. One carefully designed study found that American women with high exposures to DDT before puberty had a five-fold increase in breast cancer risk compared to women with lesser childhood exposures.
This month, the Silent Spring Institute published a review of 158 observational studies of pollutants conducted over the past decade. It identified 16 classes of environmental pollutants and additives in consumer products associated with breast cancer in human studies. Julia Brody, one of the review’s co-authors, concluded that chemical exposures are increasingly recognized as the most preventable risk factors for breast cancer."