Experts Call for More Research on Breast Cancer and the Environment

A committee established by Congress is calling for more research to identify preventable causes of breast cancer. The Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee (IBCERCC) was formed to study the current research about breast cancer and the environment, and make recommendations for eliminating any knowledge gaps. Yesterday the committee released its first report.

According to the report, “Environmental factors are more readily identified and modified than genetic factors and, therefore, present a tremendous opportunity to prevent breast cancer.” The report defines environmental factors as lifestyle and behavioral factors (alcohol intake and exercise, for instance); chemicals and physical agents like radiation; and social and cultural factors. The report points out that most breast cancer cases occur in women with no family history of the disease. And studies show that breast cancer rates can vary with changing environmental circumstances.

The report’s recommendations include increased federal funding for breast cancer research, more collaboration among researchers from different backgrounds, and better coordination among government and non-government agencies.

The report also recommends more research to understand how exposure to environmental factors such as chemicals and low-dose radiation potentially raise risk, and more research to understand different subtypes of breast cancer. It also recommends studying how diverse population groups are affected by environmental factors and recommends expanding the role of stakeholders in planning, translating, and communicating research findings and information to the general public.

“The tools that we have available now for women to reduce the risk of breast cancer - avoiding weight gain and obesity, engaging in regular physical activity, minimizing alcohol intake and use of estrogen and progestin for menopausal symptoms - are limited,” said Elizabeth Ward, PhD, American Cancer Society national vice president, Intramural Research. “It is important to conduct research on potential environmental causes of breast cancer to address public concerns and provide more answers about what causes this disease and how to prevent it." Ward was not involved in the report.

IBCERCC members include federal agency representatives, non-federal scientists and doctors (including an American Cancer Society researcher), and advocates.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society news stories are copyrighted material and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.