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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs