Overlooking Evidence: Media Ignore Environmental Connections to Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is now epidemic, affecting one in eight women, according to the American Cancer Society and others. The leading cause of death in women in their late 30s to early 50s, it's estimated to have killed 40,000 people in 2008.
Known risk factors for breast cancer-such as age, genetics, reproductive history and alcohol consumption-account for only half the cases. (Genetics, the culprit du jour in the media, accounts for just 5 to 10 percent of all cases.) What about the other 50 percent?
In the 1950's, women in industrialised countries were at a one in twenty risk of developing breast cancer over their lifetime. Today that risk has skyrocketed to one in eight.
A growing body of private, university and government environmental health research on animals and human populations is implicating the chemicals and radiation to which women are unwittingly exposed every day. The suspects include scores of toxic and hormone-disrupting substances that are listed as known, probable or possible carcinogens-and thousands of others that (in the U.S., at least) remain untested for their safety. Among others, they include pesticides, plastics, consumer-product additives and industrial byproducts.
Moreover, science is finding the causes of breast (and other) cancers are complex and multi-factored, and the timing and pattern of chemical exposure are proving as important as dose. While these findings, focused on causes and prevention, are relatively new and few compared with much better-funded work on detection and treatment, they merit further research and a place in the headlines.
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