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Breast Cancer Research Needs More Focus on Environment: Report

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"The committee feels the country can do better by increasing that level of support," said Gould, who is a professor of oncology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

In tandem with more financial investment, organizations -- both governmental and nongovernmental -- need to work together in a more coordinated and strategic manner, the report stated.

And much more research is needed into the chemical and physical causes of breast cancer. This might include low-dose radiation or compounds known as endocrine disruptors, such as bisphenol A (BPA), which are found in manufactured plastics. (There is no clear evidence yet that BPA causes breast cancer in humans.)

"We have tens of thousands of compounds produced by the chemical industry and we haven't tested all of them," Gould said.

Animal research could play an important role in filling the research gaps, he added.

When looking at these environmental factors, scientists need to focus specifically on the times of life when the breast may be most susceptible to insult from outside forces, for example, while the fetus is still in the womb.

Finally, the dialogue around cancer prevention needs to involve the public and findings need to be carefully relayed to this community.

"It is the responsibility of scientists and the government to make sure women are informed," Gould said. "We're really advocating that lines of communication be open."

More information

For more on environmental factors and health, visit the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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