GeneralWomen Health

Connection between environment and breast cancer

In this review, This literature examine the continually expanding and increasingly compelling data linking radiation and various chemicals in our environment to the current high incidence of breast cancer. We acknowledge the importance of many widely understood risk factors for breast cancer including:

primary genetic mutations, reproductive history, and lifestyle factors such as weight gain, alcohol consumption and lack of physical exercise. Yet we begin with an understanding that in total, these factors do not address a considerable portion of the risk for the disease.

A substantial body of scientific evidence indicates that exposures to common chemicals and radiation, singly and in combination, also contribute to the increasingly high incidence of breast cancer observed over the past several decades. Although rates have levelled off overall in the past few years for some subsets of women, there was a significant and progressive rise in the incidence of breast cancer in the decades following World War II, the same decades that saw exponential increases in the use of chemicals for production of pesticides, herbicides, plastics, cosmetics and other commonly used materials and products.

This report focuses on these environmental issues. In the 8 years since we the published comprehensive review of the relevant literature, hundreds of new papers have been published supporting this link, and the evidence on this topic is more extensive and of better quality than that previously available. After describing the methodology for selecting scientific reports and reporting of statistical findings, this report present introductory sections on breast cancer statistics and sub-types as well as critical concepts for framing the complex data the report is exploring. Then examine the exposures to environmental toxicants and risk for developing breast cancer, dividing the evidence discussion into seven major sections:

(1) Hormones: Pharmaceutical agents & personal care products

(2) Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs)

(3) Hormones in food: Natural and additives

(4) Non-EDC industrial chemicals

(5) Tobacco smoking: Active and passive

(6) Shift work, light-at-night and melatonin

(7) Radiation.

The literature conclude with a brief synopsis and reflection on the state of the evidence, including methodological limitations and promises, as well as directives for future research needs.


Increasing evidence from epidemiological studies, as well as a better understanding of mechanisms linking toxicants with development of breast cancer, all reinforce the conclusion that exposures to these substances – many of which are found in common, everyday products and byproducts – may lead to increased risk of developing breast cancer. Moving forward, attention to methodological limitations, especially in relevant epidemiological and animal models, will need to be addressed to allow clearer and more direct connections to be evaluated.

Ref# PMCID: PMC5581466

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