It's common knowledge that babies born in the United States have around 200 toxic chemicals that can be found in their cord blood. It's common knowledge that Americans live in a more complexly polluted environment than ever. It's common knowledge that more people are developing cancer and other health problems at younger ages in the US. Yet, as Science and Education Manager Connie Engel, PhD, at the Breast Cancer Fund states, "There has been an insufficient amount of work looking at environmental exposures and cancer."
At the forefront of the environmental health movement is this nonprofit group that has been publishing a summary about breast cancer for more than a decade. In The State of The Evidence
, Breast Cancer Fund writers explain some of their methodology, "A substantial scientific literature has developed that implicates environmental factors in the current high incidence of breast cancer. No single method or research design can determine definitively that a particular environmental exposure (or genetic profile or lifestyle factor) is responsible for an individual’s diagnosis of breast cancer; however, the collective data from several types of research studies inform our understanding of risk for the disease on a broader level."
The Breast Cancer Fund is willing to point out what some research groups do not: the very system for researching what makes us ill and changing public policy to promote wellness, is considered broken. While individual responsibility for healthy lifestyles is part of the picture, it's not the complete picture to preventing cancer. Engel notes the major story that first emerged a decade ago in the first State of The Evidence is that timing of exposure to carcinogens is critical. There are certain times in our lives, particularly early on, when researchers consider us most vulnerable. Which takes us back to human exposures to toxins, already documented by the Centers for Disease Control's national biomonitoring studies,
that include substances pregnant mothers passively share with their unborn children. It's already been several years since medical experts on the President's Cancer Panel
reported that the US needs to examine environmental cancer causes.
The Breast Cancer Fund
synthesizes the latest research, educates the public and tries to inform public policy to reflect current science. It urges the CDC to update policy to act in a precautionary manner, rather than waiting for absolutely conclusive evidence of harm by substances linked to cancer. In an era when breast cancer "awareness" has become a popular term in the medical community, environmental health experts are not satisfied with less than prevention. Engel admits, "It's very hard to measure the impact of prevention, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't do it."
Tomorrow: Simple tips from the Breast Cancer Fund's Science and Education Manager on possibly limiting your breast cancer risk.