Breast Cancer and the Environment: Women’s Exposures early in Life could unlock Mysteries

Studied for half a Century, these Women are “a National Treasure”

Breast Cancer and the Environment: Women's Exposures early in Life could unlock MysteriesDeep in a laboratory freezer, 100,000 vials of blood have been frozen for the better part of five decades.

For scientist Barbara Cohn, it’s a treasure trove. Collected from more than 15,000 San Francisco Bay Area women after they gave birth in the 1960s, each vial of blood holds a woman’s lifetime of secrets.

Scientists say these vials could help them unravel one of the most enduring medical mysteries: Why do some women, with no family history, develop breast cancer?

The blood bears the chemical signature of environmental pollutants, some long banned, that the women were exposed to decades ago. Cohn, who directs the research in Berkeley, Calif., believes these early-life exposures may hold the key to understanding a woman’s risk of breast cancer today.

The women’s blood is being tested for traces of dozens of pollutants – used by industry and found in many consumer products – that can impersonate estrogen and other hormones. The theory is that early exposure to these chemicals, even before birth, inside the mother’s womb, may fundamentally alter the way that breast tissues grow, triggering cancer decades later.

Cancer patients and their doctors have long puzzled over what factors in a woman’s environment may raise her risk of breast cancer. One of every eight women in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, with more than 232,000 new cases diagnosed yearly, according to the American Cancer Society. Only 5 to 10 percent can be accounted for by genetics; other known risk factors include age, obesity and low physical activity. ” …

… Continue reading Breast cancer and the environment Part 1:
Women’s exposures early in life could unlock mysteriesenvironmentalhealthnews, Feb. 26, 2013.

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