News / Health

Report Identifies Obesity, Hormones as Major Breast Cancer Risks

A breast cancer patient undergoes a mammography examination in a hospital in Athens, Greece, October 2008. (file photo)
A breast cancer patient undergoes a mammography examination in a hospital in Athens, Greece, October 2008. (file photo)
Vidushi Sinha

A new medical report cautions women that obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, overexposure to medical X-rays and hormone treatments during menopause can raise their risk of developing breast cancer. But critics say the report fails to emphasize the cancer-causing impact of many industrial chemicals and environmental pollutants - factors they believe could pose greater breast-cancer risks to women than their lifestyle choices.

The authors of the new report, "Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach," acknowledge that the environment they refer to is more narrowly defined than people might assume. They say it is not the pollutants in the air and water that women should worry about most when it comes to cancer-risk.

“A lot of it is what we may not typically think of as an environment, but is our most important environment. What we eat, how much weight we gain that’s the cause - of eat, exercise, avoiding radiations - things that we have known for a long time to contribute to breast cancer risk,” said Dr. Kathy Helzelsouer of the Mercy Medical Center.

Helzelsouer is one of the co-authors of the report, published by the federally-chartered Institute of Medicine in Washington. She said weight and obesity matter because fat cells produce estrogen and that hormone fuels the growth of most breast cancers.

The report's authors say it urges new measures to protect women from one of the most common types of cancer affecting women.

“There is a call for action to really put into practice... things that we know will help. So one of those things is to minimize [exposure to] radiation, especially in adolescence and when the breast is developing," reads the report.

“This report was devoid of any call to action - was devoid of anything new,” said Laura Anderko, who is a public health scientist at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington. She said the report's narrow definition of the term environment is misleading.

“To suggest that obesity and drinking alcohol are environmental risk factors, I think, really misinforms people or confuses people and creates an idea that there is an individual responsibility to why people get cancer," said Anderko. "For people who have suffered from breast cancer or family members or loved ones, it is frustrating and confusing, and creates a sense of hopelessness.”

Anderko wishes the report had been more robust and provocative, and targeted government and industry roles in reducing women's breast-cancer risks.

Helzelsour stands by the report's conclusions.

“I have taught about cancer epidemiology and cancer research for many years, and I would teach one of the risk factors and one of the environmental exposures is our diet,” said Helzelsour.

The report's critics say it is a missed opportunity, though, to urge stricter standards for testing new chemicals and regulating environmental pollutants that could pose significant breast-cancer risks.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More