Elyse Caplan remembers it well, that first conversation with her oncologist. She had just been diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer, and they were discussing the game plan for treatment. If her oncologist mentioned "recurrence" -- the possibility that her cancer could return -- it was lost on her, she says.
"You sit through an hour-long appointment and take notes, but when the doctor says one thing that's very upsetting, you just freeze," she tells WebMD. "You're thinking, 'I'm going to lose my...
At one time or another, all have been suspected of increasing the risk of breast cancer.
The important point to recognize is that most researchers agree that there are no solidly proven links between these -- or other similar environmental factors -- and the risk of breast cancer.
The troubling aspect of this, however, is that many believe it's just a matter of time before we connect the scientific dots and see a picture of increased risk.
"It's true that we have no direct links. But what we do have is a compilation of epidemiological studies, cell culture studies, and animal data that are all consistent and I believe are coming together to show us that some of what women are exposed to every day may be increasing their risk of breast cancer," says Janet Gray, PhD, professor and chairman of the department of psychology at Vassar College. Gray, together with experts from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, recently compiled a report on what we know thus far about the environmental links to breast cancer.
Gray says that while there may be no smoking gun that implicates any one area of concern, or even one chemical, she says the evidence is starting to mount indicating that steady, personal exposure to low levels of lots of different chemicals does matter.
"What's really new in this field," says Gray, is that "finally people are starting to look at interactions -- and the fact that exposure to low doses of lots of different chemicals may yield a result similar to a high-dose exposure to one chemical."
Our Chemical Exposure
And just how many chemicals are we exposed to on regular basis? According to Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), more than you might imagine.
He reports that an ongoing EWG monitoring project which regularly tests blood, cord blood, urine, and breast milk from 72 adults has so far identified the presence of 455 chemicals that should not be in the body.