Environment and Breast Cancer: Science Review

Exposure to perchloroethylene, an organic solvent, in drinking water was associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.

Five-fold variation in breast cancer incidence rates across the globe tells us that living in developed areas increases risk

Families and friends of women touched by breast cancer are calling for increased attention to research into the environmental causes - any factors that are not hereditary. The goal is to find causes of breast cancer that can be reduced or eliminated to prevent the disease.

To build an evidence-based strategy for preventing breast cancer, Susan G. Komen for the Cure invited Silent Spring Institute and their partners at Harvard University, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and the University of Southern California to assess the scientific evidence on environmental causes. In the first year, the team reviewed areas of emerging research that promise to reveal new opportunities for risk reduction:
  • environmental pollutants
  • dietary factors
  • body size and shape
  • physical activity
  • interactions of these factors with inherited genes
The links below provide access to
  • databases developed from published scientific research
  • review articles recently published in the journal CANCER.
The databases include bibliographic information, key methods and findings, and critical assessments of the strength of the evidence:
  • reviews of approximately 450 articles reporting on human breast cancer studies
  • information on 216 chemicals identified as mammary carcinogens in animal studies
This information guides future research and decision-making that is grounded in the strength of current evidence.

Results demonstrate that much more work needs to be done. The overwhelming majority of chemicals identified as animal mammary carcinogens or hormone disrupting compounds have never been included in a study of breast cancer in women. Further, the vast majority of chemicals we are exposed to have never been tested to see if they cause cancer in an animal study.