Breast Cancer Prevention: Environmental Causes of Breast Cancer
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This annual campaign, organized by several breast cancer charities, strives to increase public awareness about the disease and raise funds for research related to its prevention, cause, treatment and ultimately, a cure.
Statistics show that roughly one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. And, while genetics plays a part in a woman’s risk factor, there is concern that increased exposure to environmental toxins is also linked to an increased risk of developing this disease. The Breast Cancer Fund is an organization working to identify and eliminate environmental causes of breast cancer, such as toxic chemicals. With an ever growing body of scientific research and evidence linking breast cancer to environmental factors, the Breast Cancer Fund works to digest that information for public awareness, education and advocacy campaigns.
Who is at Risk?
No woman is immune from this disease, but certain factors, such as genetics, seem to increase a woman’s risk and timing of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals also seems to play a role. Exposure to radiation, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors – especially during gestation, early childhood and pregnancy – may negatively influence these genes and predispose an individual to breast cancer or other diseases later in life. Rather than look for a single, traceable cause of breast cancer, the Breast Cancer Fund believes we should recognize that multiple factors work in concert to influence risk, including genetics, exposure to endocrine disruptors, diet, lifestyle and reproductive history.
Which Chemicals are Linked to Breast Cancer?
A comprehensive list of chemicals linked to breast cancer is available on the Breast Cancer Fund website. These chemicals can be found in our air and water supply, food, cosmetics, cleaning supplies and plastics. While these chemicals may seem overwhelmingly present in our everyday lives, there are ways you can reduce your exposure, starting with becoming familiar with these chemicals and working towards minimizing or avoiding exposure.
What Can You Do to Avoid Environmental Toxins?
It’s nearly impossible to avoid every potential hazard. What you can do is take steps to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins. No step is too small. Just one change can have a positive impact on your health and the more changes you begin to make, the more you potentially reduce your risk.
Here are just a few ways you can reduce your exposure to toxins and hormone disrupting chemicals:
- Minimize sun exposure and use an all natural sunscreen which contains zinc oxide as the active ingredient.
- Avoid antibacterial products which contain triclosan and opt for soap and water instead.
- Don’t purchase clothing that is dry-clean only. If you do need to dry-clean, remove the plastic from the clothing and air out the clothes outside of the house before bringing them indoors.
- Use a headset with your cell phone and keep wireless electronics turned off at night or away from where you sleep.
- Use truly natural skincare products and minimize use of beauty products that contain synthetic ingredients.
- Choose hormone-free meat and dairy products whenever possible.
- Minimize or avoid canned foods. The lining of many canned foods contain BPA which can leach into your food.
- Choose organic produce whenever possible.
- Use simple, non-toxic cleaning products.
- Avoid pesticides and chemical herbicides.
- Switch from plastic to stainless steel or glass water bottles.
- Be picky about plastics and keep plastic out of the microwave.
- In cookware: avoid non-stick cooking surfaces and choose stainless steel cookware or cast iron pans.
- Beware of old, soft plastic toys which likely contain phthalates.
Interested in helping to support organizations like the Breast Cancer Fund? Purchase of the Klean Kanteen Prayer Flag Water Bottle donates $2 to the Breast Cancer Fund and helps fund research for breast cancer prevention. Or visit their site for information about making a donation.