The following post is from Charlotte Brody, the BlueGreen Alliance’s Vice President of Health Initiatives.
Three months ago we learned that women employed in the automotive plastics and food-packaging industries in Ontario had five times more breast cancer before menopause as other women.
Today, a new report from the Congressionally mandated Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee connects that Canadian study on the occupational links to breast cancer to other environmental causes of this national and global epidemic.
“Breast Cancer and The Environment: Prioritizing Prevention” is the powerful result of two years of work by the Committee of government and university scientists and breast cancer organizational leaders. The report clearly explains how most of the 227,000 women and 2,200 men who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. this year will not have a family history of breast cancer. Instead, the report illustrates how “breast cancer rates can vary with changing environmental circumstances” including chemicals, radiation, alcohol intake, physical activity and social factors.
In our country and around the world, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy and the leading cause of cancer death in women, creating enormous impacts on families, communities and health care systems. But, until now, almost all of the focus of breast cancer research has been on diagnosis and cure.
Of course, it’s incredibly important for researchers to find better ways to diagnose and treat breast cancer. But, as the title of the new report explains, prioritizing prevention has an almost untapped potential to reduce the number of new cases of breast cancer so diagnosis and treatment aren’t needed. Quoting from the report’s Executive Summary, “Environmental factors are more readily identified and modified than genetic factors and therefore present a tremendous opportunity to prevent breast cancer.”
We all have a job to do to act on this “tremendous opportunity.” We can make sure our neighbors, our co-workers, our Facebook friends and our elected officials know about the Prioritization Prevention report. We can make sure that they understand the power of the report and its summary statement that “identifying and mitigating the environmental causes of breast cancer is the key to reducing the number of new cases.” And we can use the report to prevent the preventable causes of breast cancer in our own lives not just by making healthy lifestyle decisions but also by organizing to reduce our occupational and environmental exposures.