WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Diane Morgan, 71, lives in Santa Rosa, Calif. now. But her breast cancer story began in 2005, when she was 67 and and living near Miami in Sunny Isles, Fla. That's one of the places where Hurricane Katrina struck...
At one time or another, all have been suspected of increasing the risk of
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
"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.
"If you had one or two you would say not a big deal. But you can't say
that the whole 455 aren't doing something harmful to the body. That just
doesn't seem plausible," says Wiles.
Moreover, he reports that a recent EWG survey of some 2,300 Americans found
that the average adult is exposed to 126 chemicals every day -- just in their
personal care product use alone.
"One in every 13 women is exposed to a known or a probable human
carcinogen every day, with one in every 24 women -- or 4.3 million total --
exposed to personal care ingredients that are known or probable reproductive
and developmental toxins," says Wiles.