Commentary: breast cancer's environmental legacy: how every day toxins threaten women's health.

Author:Wdowin, Garrett

In 2005 it was estimated that 211,240 American women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 40,410 women died from the disease. Breast cancer rates have nearly tripled in the United States over the last 60 years making it the second most common cancer in women. The lifetime risk for a woman to develop breast cancer in 1940 was 1 in 22. In 2006 it was up to 1 in 8, and has continued to rise. The probability of a woman contracting any form of cancer in the United States is an astonishing 1 in 3.


Similar increases can be seen in "developed" countries such as England, Japan, and Denmark. Within the European Union a woman dies of breast cancer every 7.5 minutes making it the number one killer of women between the ages of 34 and 54. These are "developed" nations, with increased screening through mammograms, breast exams, and regular doctor visits. What explains this drastic increase?

The genetic component of breast cancer (BRCA-1 and BRCA-2) plays an important role, yet how much of the recent increase in breast cancer does genetics actually account for? Ponder this: According to Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, "Not more than 10% of human breast cancers can be linked directly to germline mutations" and the 2006 Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment reports that "There is no history of breast cancer among female relatives in over 75% of patients." New research now points out that the BRCA-1gene isn't all negative and it actually plays a role in DNA repair, protecting a woman from breast cancer. Therefore, the recent climb in breast cancer rates cannot be solely explained by genetics.

A fact worth exploring in Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine (2005) is "the risk [of breast cancer] is higher among women born after 1940, presumably due to promotional effects of hormonal factors." Breast tissue is estrogen-dependent, this is why the breasts will become larger when a woman takes birth control pills or becomes pregnant. Besides estrogens the body makes there is also a substantial number of estrogen mimicking, disrupting and promoting substances, both natural and manmade, that we are exposed to in our environment every day. This poses a significant question: are environmental toxins acting on the breast tissue and increasing your risk of cancer? A plausible answer is given by Colborn et. al. "because total estrogen exposure is the single most important risk factor for breast cancer, estrogenic chemicals, toxins...

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