Breast Cancer and the Environment: We Need Answers

A new report from an expert committee established by Congress to examine the current state of breast cancer and the environment research  says more collaboration is needed among researchers with varying expertise to  focus research in the most promising areas. The report also calls for an increased role for public stakeholders in the planning, implementation, and translation of breast cancer research.

The Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee (IBCERCC) report highlights the importance of enhancing research efforts to identify preventable causes of breast cancer, and notes that existing research points to periods of breast development, such as puberty, in which breast tissues are highly susceptible to carcinogenic exposures and reviews information on specific environmental factors that may be linked to breast cancer.

The IBCERCC was established by Congress in 2008 to review the current state of the science and investments by federal agencies and other organizations, and make recommendations to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for actions to better understand how breast cancer risk is affected by changing environmental circumstances.

We’re proud to say that Kenneth Portier, MS, PhD, managing director of the American Cancer Society’s Statistics & Evaluation Center, serves on the committee, which consists of federal agency representatives, non-federal scientists and physicians, and advocates.

Elizabeth Ward, PhD, national vice president of Intramural Research for the American Cancer Society, had this to say about the report.

Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D.

“The American Cancer Society welcomed the participation of Dr. Portier in this report, which emphasizes the importance of research on prevention of the most common cancer in women.

“The tools that we have available now for women to reduce the risk of breast cancer – avoiding weight gain and obesity, engaging in regular physical activity, minimizing alcohol intake and use of estrogen and progestin for menopausal symptoms – are limited. Although there is evidence from toxicologic and epidemiologic studies that radiation and certain exposures can cause breast cancer, the relationship between low level environmental exposures in the US population and breast cancer risk remains unclear.

“It is important to conduct research on potential environmental causes of breast cancer to address public concerns and provide more answers about what causes this disease and how to prevent it.”

For more on cancer and the environment, check out American Cancer Society Perspectives on Environmental Factors and Cancer, from our journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians in 2009.

About David Sampson

I am the director of medical and scientific communications for the American Cancer Society national home office.
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