By Liz Szabo
Excerpt: Researchers studying the environmental causes of breast cancer need to look at a whole lifetime of toxic exposures — even in the womb — that may predispose a woman to develop cancer decades later, says a report released Wednesday by a panel of government advisers.
"We have to pay attention to environmental exposures throughout our lives, not just at the time we develop cancer," says Cheryl Lyn Walker, a molecular biologist and co-author of the report, by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, whose independent experts advise the government on health.
"Our risk of developing breast cancer may be influenced by exposures as early as when the fetus is still in the womb," says Walker, whose report was presented at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in Texas. "Even if we never see those exposures again, they may have reprogrammed us to be predisposed to breast cancer."